Quadra Nut Tree Project
Brought to you by the ICAN Food Security Team
The Quadra Nut Tree Project is a joint effort between ICAN and the Quadra Island Garden Club.
In 2022 ICAN received funding from the United Way for the Quadra Nut Tree Project. The goal of the project is to plant 100 nut trees all over Quadra Island in publicly accessible locations and to get many people growing nuts. Ultimately we would like to see a nut tree culture here on Quadra, with community planting days, nut festivals, and a deep tradition of growing and processing nuts.
On January 28, 2023 we completed our first Community Planting Day. To see some photos and read all about it, check out the articles in Cortes Currents or the Birdseye (January 18, 25, and February 1st, editions).
We completed two more Community Planting Days, on December 2, 2023 and January 4, 2024.
We have now planted a total of 76 trees, at 10 different publicly accessible locations, with hopes of getting to 85 trees at 13 locations (total) by the end of February 2024!
Meanwhile, we have sold 153 nut trees for people to plant on their residential properties.
So by that count, we have increased the number of nut trees on Quadra Island by 238!!!
Soon we will be putting together a map and moving to the next phase of the project which is the maintenance of the trees as they grow. Stay tuned!
What Type of Tree to Plant?
The Quadra Nut Tree Project would like to see many types of nut trees planted on Quadra, including hazelnuts, walnuts, and chestnuts. These trees are already being grown on Quadra and we would like to see many more. Other types of nut trees, such as pecans, heartnuts, and pinenuts, may also be planted.
We are starting by planting hazelnut trees. Hazelnuts can be grown as shrubs (multi-stem) or trees (single-stem). They are much smaller and easier to grow than most other nuts, and do well on the west coast if taken care of properly.
HERE is an information sheet that we created on the different types of nut trees and what they require.
Planting Hazelnut Trees
Hazelnut trees are “self-incompatible” meaning that they will not set nuts with their own pollen. So you can’t plant just one tree if you want nuts. You must plant at least two varieties of hazelnut trees, and those varieties must be compatible and flower at the same time. Hazelnut trees are wind pollinated. HERE is a list and descriptions of the varieties that are available for sale at Naturetech Nursery in Courtenay.
Hazelnuts need water to get properly established and to thrive. It is best to plant them several months before the rain stops…in the fall or winter if possible. They need soil with good drainage and don’t like to sit in water for long periods of time.
To plant a hazelnut tree, use a shovel to dig a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole so the roots can penetrate. Mix a handful or two of bonemeal or rock phosphate, and some good quality compost, into the soil you removed if it needs a boost. The compost will add carbon and improve drainage. You don’t want the soil to be too fertile as that will cause the tree to grow quickly and make it it more susceptible to pests and disease.
Point the roots down (trim any that are too long or damaged) and gently put the tree in the hole. Put some of the soil back in the hole to support the root ball and ensure that the soil line is at the same spot on the tree in the hole as it was in the pot. Then gently fill the hole back up with amended soil. Stake the tree.
It is advisable to put landscape fabric or cardboard around the tree to discourage weeds and grass. And then mulch heavily with wood chips, leaves, grass clippings, prunings, or whatever you have, 2-3 feet out from the trunk. Irrigate regularly during the summer, especially while the tree is getting established.
If your planting area is not fenced for deer you will need to fence each tree to protect it from being heavily browsed or rubbed by deer. Once it is established it should withstand some deer pressure.
There are lots of ways to prune a hazelnut tree. You can prune to one main stem or let it branch from the base. The Guide below has more information on pruning. You can pick hazelnuts from the tree but for the newer varieties, the nuts fall when they are ripe and are harvested from the ground. Shaking the tree helps. You will want to know when they are ready so you can gather them before the squirrels and birds get them.
The standard planting distance is 6m between trees to allow the trees to fully mature. Younger trees can be planted much closer together and then some can be removed later on if needed. Hazelnuts can also be planted as a hedgerow. Just make sure that if you are removing trees that you keep some of each kind so that pollination continues to occur.
The presentation below is based on the Hazelnut Reference Guide produced by the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and the B.C. Hazelnut Growers Association.