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Planting Black Walnuts in the Forest from Seed [Permaculture
Posted on December 2, 2016 @ 07:27:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Bill Mollison, the father of Permaculture, died on Sept 24th, 2016 and his dying wish was that people plant a tree in his memory. I had to wait until until a few weeks ago to collect some black walnut seeds and last weekend I had the chance to plant out a black walnut grove in a forest clearing on our farm property.

Here is me planting the first black walnut seed in Bill's memory.

After I finished planting around 25 black walnut seeds, I documented some of it.

I am experimenting with a tree guard design that I fashioned from 4 inch Big-O drain pipe and some metal barbecue skewers that I used for anchors. The idea is that the seedling will burst through the center of the tree guard because this is the path of least resistance (the soil here is crumbled with my hands when I'm putting the soil cores back into the hole). The tree guard will help with identifying where I planted the trees. It also helps with maintenance. I can run a string trimmer against it (tested) to keep the area around it cleared.

I have had success for the last few years planting black walnut seeds in the fall in my garden and having them emerge in early summer. When I moved them to their final spot there was some transplant shock because the root system gets damaged and can't deliver enough water/nutrients to the leaves until it gets re-established. During this time it might look like the seedling is on the way out because leaves are dropping off and turning black but eventually all the seedlings recovered and did well a couple months afterwards. A year previous all my black walnut seedlings died because it stayed dry for a few weeks after I transplanted them. They couldn't overcome the transplant shock.

I will transplant shock by directly planting the seeds where I want them, however, planting in the woods has some different challenges - like knowing where you planted your seeds and a system for maintaining them over time. That is why I added the tree guards. I also planted the trees more densely than I will ultimately want them in the expectation that the woods environment will be less forgiving with rabbits and deer wanting a black walnut snack.

I came into the woods about a month and a half earlier with my tractor and a bush hog attachment to clear out some of the weeds and make paths. I planted the seeds where I thought they would get the most sunlight (towards the center of the cleared out area) and in such a way that I would be relatively easy to harvest if it comes to that. The black walnut tree I harvested the seed from had a broken limb from exposure to wind so I'm concerned about how fragile the tree might be in this area that does experience some high winds. Planting them in a woods clearing gives them more wind protection than in the middle of a field or at the edge of a field where I planted black walnuts this summer. They are doing ok in these field locations so far but will experience more direct winds down the road.

Will have to wait until next summer to know how this forest planting experiment turns out.

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