Have about 77 chestnut trees (about 14 producing), 12 apple trees producing, a couple pear trees, several persimmon and mulberry trees. I do not have enough experience yet to conclusively say if helps as much as advertised; but we have lots of grain crops, oak trees, and such in this area. What are everyones' thoughts? Are they worth the cost and effort?
I can't definitively answer that, but I'm leaning towards a no.
I've sprouted peaches three times using the seeds from Arkansas-grown peaches that I bought at the Amish grocery. I have no idea what variety they were, but the trees that grew from them produced fabulous peaches. The oldest of them are getting on towards 15 years of age. I lost one to blight and there's another that's probably not going to leaf out come spring.
Peaches are tough to grow here even when you buy good quality nursery stock. I think our tight clay soils don't agree with them.
Of the ten peach trees I have here now, eight of them were grown from seed. The other two are what's left of seven nursery stock trees, and neither of those are very healthy now. Might get two or three more years out of them before they croak.
I read a good article from a wildlife habitat expert (mostly focused on deer). He is frequently asked, "What is the best thing to grow for habitat?"
He said that there is no perfect answer - but the best things to add to your habitat are the things you are MISSING on your property!
If you have zero mast trees, add a variety of those. If you have hard mast trees (acorns and chestnuts), add some soft mast fruit trees. If you have no water supply on your property, add a small pond. If you have no deep shelter, plant some shrubs and form thickets. If you have no row crops, keep your feeders operating for most or all of the year.
That sounded like excellent advice to me.
Of course, not being an expert, I wasn't exactly sure what I was missing the most, but I have read lots of posts from the good habitat people on Pond Boss and gained more knowledge in that area.
My solution is to have so much food that my new plantings get minimal pressure. We have losses, but we plant a lot and accept that only some will survive. We (my wife) grow most from seed and we plant at least 100 bare-root seedlings from the DNR each year. I also try to tag out on does every year. Still need a muzzleloader doe to tag out this year, so I will be out there when the season comes in. Even so, we have a lot of deer. Trying to keep lots of smaller bucks for future years. My herd control is mainly to reduce the chances of a disease epidemic. I really only have one person hunting adjacent land that is like minded, so it is an uphill battle. On a positive note, I only found one small buck dead on my property so far this year, but that was before gun season started...
We have two, mature Chinese chestnut trees. They produce mast every year (the nut husk is covered in spikes that would make a porcupine proud). The pods pop open and drop out 3-4 chestnuts. The deer absolutely love them. We have lots of burr oak as well. I have observed deer preferentially eating hickory nuts in our hunting timber. We have smooth bark hickory around here. I have also planted some Dunstan chestnuts, and 3 of the 4 are close to mast bearing size (took about 5 years). Dunstan's are blight resistant. American Chestnuts were all but wiped out by a blight, but a blight resistant cultivar is being worked on still. Chinese chestnuts are also blight resistant. I think FishinRod is on to something, re: adding some forage or cover that wasn't available before helps attract more wildlife.
Update: The seed starts for this year are pretty much a bust. One place recommended soaking the seeds briefly in a bleach solution. That is the main thing I did differently this year vs last. The seedlings from last year that I transplanted are doing far better than anticipated. We transplanted them into an area of heavy clay soil that doesn't grow much well. Then we didn't water them at all even during several very dry periods. Surprisingly, most survived and some are now near the tops of the tree tubes. Some of my more mature chestnuts appear loaded so will probably try again. On the down side... I tried some prepared chestnuts. They were like icky mush with little taste. Hopefully, not all are like that. If so, they'll definitely be for wildlife only and I'll plant more pecans for myself.
Some of our transplanted chestnut trees are now above the tubes (like in Augie's picture). We mowed at the island last weekend and some of the chestnut trees there are absolutely loaded. I bet one of the trees alone has hundreds of nuts. May try my luck just planting some seeds where transplanted ones died. Only one of the six trees by the house has any. Same small tree as had the most last year. Neither of the two biggest trees has any... Don't quite understand that. Have several hundred black walnuts, pecans, and some cherry seeds saved back, have a lot of apples to pick, and will have a lot of chestnuts. Not sure what I'll do with any of them. Not sure I'm up for a mass transplanting effort again. Feel like I need to plant them somewhere; but not sure where. If it all works out, may try to clear off some areas that just have brush and plant seeds. A lot of things would have to come together just right for that to work out (time, money, and equipment availability); but...
I believe I get a much stronger tree when direct seeded in their permanent location. Tap root trees simple do better if their root has been allowed to grow fully instead of in a pot. It takes a little protection to make it happen but I think it's worth it. Of course I do pot starts too as I enjoy growing trees, just don't think it's best.
Maybe so. Diggin that hole to bury the four 5 gallon buckets convinced me that people probably didn't bury their dead in a 6 ft hole long 3 feet wide and 6 feet down back in the old days before backhoes and good equipment. I dug that hole using three different steel shovels and a hammer drill with an auger on it and it still took a while digging about a 4 x 4 x 4 hole. Ground is hard around here right now. Have a lot of ideas for property improvements- will just take time, money, and hard work.