How to grow chestnut
The European chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill., 1768), commonly called chestnut, is a tree belonging to the Fagaceae family, of which it is the only indigenous species present in Europe. The populations present in Europe are mainly due to European chestnut seedlings or European chestnut trees grafted onto the Japanese species (Castanea crenata) or to hybrids of the two species. Although the chestnut is a monoecious plant (with feminine and masculine flowers on the same plant) there are some varieties that tend to be self-fertile, this implies that, in order to obtain a good harvest, it is necessary that there are more chestnut varieties in the area; problem that obviously does not occur in the chestnut woods. In this sheet we will see therefore how to grow chestnut and the most appropriate measures for a good production.
The ideal period for planting chestnut plants is that of autumn, even if we start from seed. For the choice of the land, consider that the chestnut tree prefers those loose and deep, preferably for flat or slightly sloping ones. The area must be quite sunny avoiding orientations to the east and north.
In the more temperate zones the chestnut woods must be grown in increasing proportions where even during the summer the temperatures remain mild, thus avoiding excessive heat where the plant tends not to develop well and to produce. For the plant you can start from plants previously bought in the nursery or you can proceed with the cultivation from seed and proceed choosing the desired varieties. If you start from seed you must first put the seeds in outdoor nurseries, with loose substrate with organic substance, prepare the furrows 50 cm apart and seed the chestnuts. Here the plants will remain for at least one or two years.
In the third year it is possible to apply the grafts of the preferred varieties and at the end of the fourth or fifth year the planting can be carried out. If you start from nursery plants, these are two years old and proceed to implant by drilling holes in the ground of at least one cubic meter, with at least 30 kg of mature manure, to be placed at the sides of the hole. Two grafting techniques can be used for grafting: gemstone grafting or English double split grafting; the latter is the most used for its greater effectiveness and the optimal period to run it is that of late spring.
As for irrigation this is especially necessary for young plants; these need to be irrigated, in the summer period, at intervals of three weeks. In the first two or three years it is essential that the soil is rich in phosphorus and potassium and it is also recommended the technique of green manure with legumes that will give an additional supply of organic substance (we absolutely do not recommend the use of nitric fertilizers). Pruning should be performed to give a balanced globose formation to the plant and then it will suffice to maintain the foliage with the periodic cut of the suckers or bundled branches.
From the plant of the chestnut grove to its entry into production, they spend an average of 4 years on germination; the collection of fruits (achenes), contained within urchins in a variable number from one to three, takes place in the autumn period when mature urchins fall from the plant onto the ground and can be collected. The fruits must then be separated from the sea urchins with appropriate tools and stored. Storage can be done in two ways:
– The first and most common is the use of water, which must be changed regularly and after a few days the chestnuts are placed in an airy room to dry them.
– the other method of conservation, called “in ricciaia”, which indicates the place where the curls are covered and then covered with a layer of earth.
However, the fruits can also be stored in special containers to be kept in dry places.