How to Grow a Chestnut Tree In Your Garden

Having a lofty chestnut tree in your garden can be a challenge, but a rewarding one for sure! These historic trees provide some of the sweetest nuts that bring the holiday season straight to your pallet. Learn more about how to grow a chestnut tree in your garden.

These trees grew naturally in North America for thousands of years, producing beautiful treats for humans and animals to enjoy until a chestnut blight disease wiped them out in the 20th century. Thankfully, the fungus is not a threat today since we created chestnut species that are susceptible to blight, like the blight-resistant American Chestnut Tree. As with growing anything, there are some considerations you need to keep in mind. Here are some tips and tricks on how to grow chestnut trees in your landscape.

Do Chestnut Trees Need a Pollinator?

Though the chestnut trees have both male flowers and female flowers in the same tree, they cannot self-pollinate. To make sure you get plenty of high-quality nuts in your orchard, plan for two trees, at least.

Where Do Chestnut Trees Grow?

Fruiting Tree Chestnut trees grow well in USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) hardiness zones 5 to 9. 

To start, you will need a large empty space if you’re planning to make the most out of the tree’s nut production. In about 20 years when your tree is a mature American chestnut tree, you may have a 60-feet tall by 40-feet wide tree in your backyard. You will want to make sure you have that kind of space available before planting one. Furthermore, keep in mind, you’ll need to plant them in pairs if you want the best nuts!

A gentle slope on the land is a bonus since it enhances drainage. If you have a windy site, look for a north-facing slope that can shelter it from strong winds and low sun, according to The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF)

How Far Apart to Plant Chestnut Trees

For best cross-pollination, make sure there’s at least a 60 feet distance between the two chestnut trees. This spacing will prevent crowding of trees while still ensuring plenty of pollination.

Chestnut Tree Sun Exposure

Full sun exposure is best to ensure that the tree grows fast and develops plenty of chestnuts for the family to enjoy.

Best Soil for Chestnut Trees

Like most other plants, well-drained, fertile, deep soil is preferred. Sandy or loamy soil will both work perfectly for your tree.

Chestnut Tree Soil pH

Check the soil pH beforehand, since these tree species prefer more acidic soil. A range of 4.5 to 6.5 is the ideal pH range for all chestnut varieties. 

Best Time to Plant Chestnut Trees:

Chestnut seeds can take months to germinate. If you don’t want to wait that long, buy a tree, and get a head start.  The best planting time for you depends on the climate. If you live in colder climates (northern regions), the best time to plant a young tree is in early spring. If you live in a warm climate (southern regions), plant it in early fall.

Chestnut Tree Care

Once you’ve selected a good site for your chestnut tree, maintenance is not hard. 

Watering Chestnut Trees

These are hardy plants and very drought-tolerant once they are established. However, remember to water the young plants regularly to help them grow and develop a robust root system. Chestnut Flower Opening

Mulching Chestnut Trees

Mulch the soil with 2 to 4 inches of organic matter to maintain moisture in the soil and keep the temperatures low. 

What Is the Best Fertilizer for Chestnut Trees

Prune your tree in winter to keep it in shape and feed them with granular, nitrogen-rich fertilizer once a year. The best time to fertilize is during springtime, once the last frost of the season has passed. Always fertilize according to the package’s instructions and avoid overfeeding. 

Do Deer Eat Chestnuts?

Deer love edible chestnuts! If you fear deer or other animals in the area might harm your tree, place tree guards around the trunk. They’ll protect young trees from animals, but remember to remove them each spring. Keeping them in place can be severely damaging to the tree as the trunk grows wider. 

How to Harvest Chestnuts

Harvesting chestnuts is the easy part! Once the young trees are established, they won’t need much attention. Although chestnut seeds take a long time to germinate and grow, you won’t have to wait that long if you order a young chestnut tree. A young tree, selected from the right source, can start bearing nuts in 1 to 3 years after planting it. Wait for the chestnuts to fall to the ground before harvesting. Remove the burrs and store the nuts in an airtight container or the fridge.