Gardening with Children

School Zone

Go Nuts!

Date Posted: 01 February 2016

If you ‘grow your own’ on an allotment or in your garden a fruit tree is often one of your first considerations, if you already have fruit trees or want to try growing something a bit different why not consider growing your own nuts.

Bags of nuts (complete with their shells) are widely available at Christmas but seem to be forgotten about the rest of the year.

Nuts are packed with protein, essential fats, fibre and vitamins; each type of nut has different nutritional credentials and health benefits.

One of the easiest varieties to grow are Cobnuts or Hazelnuts and Filberts. A Cobnut is the cultivated form of Wild Hazel and the Filbert (named after its grower, Mr Filbert) is a variety of Cobnut. The main visual difference between a Cobnut and a Filbert is that the husk surrounding the shell does not completely cover a Cobnut, you can still see its tip whereas on the Filbert the husk completely encloses the nut.

Rich in protein and unsaturated fat Filberts are used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Praline is made using Filberts and Hazelnuts; the chocolate spread Nutella uses 25% of the world’s supply.

A tree for Wildlife

Hazel trees make an ideal choice for a wildlife garden as their nuts are a favourite food of Squirrels, Dormice, Wood Mice, Bank Voles, Woodpeckers and Nuthatches, if you want to know who has been eating your nuts take a closer look:

Squirrels tend to split the nuts neatly in half.

Common Dormice leave a smooth, round hole in the side of the nut, with tooth marks running around the inside of the hole.

Wood Mice leave tooth marks on the surface of the nut and across the edge of the hole. The hole may be either circular or ragged in shape.

Bank Voles create a round hole with tooth marks across the edge, but not on the surface of the nut.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers break nuts into pieces or leave large, irregular holes.

Woodpeckers and Nuthatches jam hazelnuts into crevices in tree bark, so they can hammer them more easily.


Newly planted trees will grow quite quickly and produce a good crop of nuts within 2-5 years. Grow in moist, well-drained soil with plenty of well-rotted manure or garden compost, plant in a sunny or semi-shaded sheltered position, water in well to settle the soil, and water regularly during dry spells until established. Each Spring mulch around the base with well-rotted manure or garden compost to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

They are most often grown as a tree with a short trunk of about 18”, from which side shoots will grow, each February remove any that are weak, damaged or badly placed to leave an open framework of 8-10 strong branches. When they reach about 2m in length remove the tip, cutting back to a bud to encourage side shoots that will bear the catkins and the nuts.

There are different varieties available including those that are self-fertile and ones with attractive dark red leaves and husks, all bear the familiar vibrant yellow catkins in Spring.

Harvest your nuts when the husks are turning yellow, hopefully before the birds and animals get to them, they can be eaten fresh or dried and stored for later.



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