Saturday, February 26, 2011

Reclaiming the Farm from Black Walnuts?

 We wandered to the big farm yesterday. An ice storm had swept through just the other day leaving the tops of the trees looking like they are encase in glass. The driveway is a soupy mess that a car can't clear, so we parked just past the gate and hiked the icy drive. 

 To say the place is overgrown would be a gross understatement. 

 Now while black walnuts are lovely when you like to make furniture, or are into harvesting the nuts (or sap for making syrup), they have drawbacks. At around 10 years of age the black walnut starts producing nuts. At about 30 they are in their prime for nut production, but crops seem to alternate heavy one year and lighter the next. They are an investment of time.

 We have a lot of black walnuts. A LOT.. they are invading... actually it is past invading and has moved into "they have taken over". Great right? Not so much.

 What we have is Juglans nigra (black walnut). Notice the name... this tree produces juglone. Juglone is the chemical this plant produces in it's warfare to control an area to grow. While a few plants have adapted and defied this attack (in particular wild black raspberries.. aka thimbleberries/ blackcaps/ etc. latin name of our wild species is Rubus occidentalis).. juglone will kill off many other desirable plants. Like apple trees, pear trees, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, and birch trees do not handle juglone.

 Just take the trees out, right? The hurdle in reorganizing the walnut coup is our darling black walnuts produce juglone in their leaves, roots, husks, stems, etc. So even if you pull out a tree the remaining roots will slowly dispense juglone over the years while they decompose. As well.. the leaves flitting about as they are dispersed by the wind also are doing the same thing.

 If you are looking to add black walnuts to your property, the best way is to grab up some of these stain-your-hands-forever husk covered nut bombs and just plant them. 

 Keep in mind if you have livestock... black walnut shavings will cause laminitis (founder) in horses. As little as 20% of shredded black walnut (or butternut) in the bedding can result in a horse foundering in 24 hours. Founder.... sucks... royally.

 Well.. I am heading out in just a few minutes back to the farm. Armed with a camera that this time contains batteries I will hopefully show you some of the good, bad, ugly of what we are hoping to tackle.




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