How to Plant and Grow Your Own Walnut Trees From Seeds
Walnut trees are a very attractive deciduous tree that grows in many parts of North America and other parts of the world. The dense foliage and height of this tree can make a welcome addition to your property and provide lots of much needed shade in a world that seems to get hotter every day, not to mention some tasty treats when the tree begins to bear fruit. I have grown many thousands of these trees from seed, and it's fairly easy to do.
Where to Start
The best thing to do first when collecting seed for any tree is to find out what's growing around you. This is a good indication of what seeds will have the best success in germinating. It is always best to grow seeds that came from same area that you want to grow your tree in. This ensures the tree is well adapted to the climate and soil conditions you have. If you see Walnuts growing quite well in or around your town, you are good to go.
When to Collect and What to Look For
The best time to collect is in the fall. In my area, I find the best time to go is in the beginning of October. Usually around the time of the first frost, you will notice them dropping quite rapidly from the trees. The seed is round shaped and will usually be green to a slightly yellowish color. You will notice the trees can be very very big, and the walnuts are not just something you can reach up and grab in most cases. You can probably use the help of squirrels to get what you need however. They are more than helpful by knocking the walnuts to the ground, and if you are lucky enough you might even stumble on to their hidden cache. They will be less than impressed with you helping yourself, but you could always leave some seeds of some kind in return as I do.
Preparing the Seeds
The number of seeds you collect will depend on how many you plan on growing and how many you want to eat perhaps. When you have brought them home, you may want to clean them. This is not necessary to do if you just want to plant them. I have planted walnuts both with and without their husks over the years, and the only real difference I ever noticed is that the walnuts I had cleaned seemed to germinate a bit faster in the spring, and they had slightly better success when germinating. So the choice is up to you. If you do decide to clean them, you can start by always wearing heavy gloves... if you are smarter than me. Walnuts have a very black substance that will stain your hands much like a black dye, and I have never found anything that can remove it immediately. So the next thing you would do is place some walnuts on an old table, grab a hammer so that you are using it sideways rather than how you would hold it to hammer a nail. Tap the walnut firmly a couple times, and the husk will split right open so you can remove the walnut from inside quite easily. Voila, one walnut ready to plant.
I have heard of other people driving over them to remove the husks, and I have heard of a type of grinder that will also dehusk walnuts, but the method I use is cheap and quite fast.
A general rule of thumb for most seeds is to never plant deeper than the width of the seed itself. So basically what you want to do is make a hole big enough so you are just covering them. You can plant them anytime after you have collected them. Walnuts require a period of cold stratification to enable germination in the spring. So planting in the fall will naturally do this for you. You can stratify seeds with other methods, but letting mother nature take care of it is the easiest way. You should plant more than you need to ensure success, you can always remove the weaker ones later, and keep the best one, or just transplant them apart. Once you have planted them, you can cover the ground above with hay and or chicken wire to prohibit the squirrels from stealing, a lot easier said then done however, these little animals can be quite persistent. If all goes well, you will notice walnut trees coming up in early spring, and they will grow well over a foot in the first season, maybe even two!