'Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…', we are familiar with that classic Christmas tune, but just where do chestnuts come from and can I grow them? Sure, anyone with the land space can grow chestnuts. Just plant two or more chestnut trees for cross pollination, then be patient. In a few years you can harvest ripe chestnuts in your own yard minutes before you're ready to roast them over an open fire.
Choose the Tree
There are four main types of chestnut trees grown in United States: The American chestnut (Castanea dentata), the Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima), the Japanese chestnut (C. crenata) and the European chestnut (C. sativa).
Each specie will produce edible chestnuts, but each one will have a distinctive flavor and the trees will have varying growth habits. The American chestnut tree grows strong and tall, producing small, sweet nuts with easy-to-remove hulls. The Chinese chestnut tree grows wider than it does tall and produces smooth, sweet-flavored nuts. Japanese chestnut trees are semi-blight resistant and produce bitter-tasting nuts and the European chestnut tree grows large and strong, producing nuts with varying flavors.
Plant Two Trees
Once you have selected the tree variety, select a sunny location and prepare the soil for planting two trees. Two chestnut trees are needed for cross pollination, so unless your close neighbor (within 200 feet) has a chestnut tree, you will need to plant two.
The ideal planting location for chestnut trees is on a sunny slope. This location will provide the tree with the needed sunlight (at least 6 hours a day) plus provide the means for quick rain water runoff so the tree roots do not become water logged. Never plant a chestnut tree at the bottom of a slope or in soggy marshland, the tree will not tolerate having its roots in soggy soil.
Spring is the best time to plant a chestnut tree. Allow 40 feet in all directions for each tree, then dig a large planting hole that is twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball. Mix compost or well-rotted cow manure into the removed soil and back-fill planting hole so the tree will planted at the same depth as it was in the container. Finish filling the hole with soil, tap down gently to ensure all roots are in contact with the soil, then water well.
Start from Seed
You can start a chestnut tree from a seed, which is just an untreated, raw chestnut. Place the raw chestnut(s) in a plastic bag that is filled damp sphagnum moss or sawdust. Seal the bag and place it in the refrigerate for 4-6 months. This chilling process is needed to cause the raw chestnut to go through the germination process. Chilling the chestnut for months inside a refrigerator mimics what the seed nut would go through if left alone outdoors, but the refrigeration chilling protects the seed nut from small animals and weather conditions which would destroy it.
Plant Seeds in Spring
As soon as the outdoor soil is thawed and workable (usually in March), remove the seed nut from its refrigerated resting place and plant into prepared soil. Dig a shallow, one-inch deep hole and place seed nut with sprout side facing downward. Cover lightly with loose soil and water once a week for the first two months.
Cover the planting location with some type of wire or wire basket so small animals, like squirrels, will not dig up the seed nut. Remove the wire protection after the seed nut has sprouted and the sampling tree reaches 12 inches in height.
Chestnut trees require very little care after planting, but to grow the most aesthetically pleasing, nut-producing tree, a little early branch training will be needed. Ensure adequate branch spacing by pinching or pruning off sucker branches that compete with the central trunk for height. Select a scaffold of limbs branching off from the main trunk, spacing them about one foot apart all around the trunk, then remove all the remaining branches during the first year after the tree is planted. Prune away diseased, dead or unsightly limbs as needed during the lifetime of the tree to keep it strong, healthy and looking good.
Chestnuts are grown inside spiny burrs that can house 1-3 nuts. When the chestnuts are ripe in the early fall, the spiny burrs crack open and drop the ripe nuts to the ground or the entire spiny burr falls from the tree to the ground. In either event, the ripe chestnuts will be harvested off the ground under the tree, taking all the guess-work out of whether or not they are ripe.
Small animals will be competing with you for the ripe chestnuts when harvest time comes, so gather them as soon as possible after they fall from the tree.
Flowers and birds go together and they can co-exist very well in any landscape. Blooming flowers can do more than just look pretty in a landscape, they can also be a part of a eco-freindly, working southern garden by providing birdseed and feeding a variety of hungry birds.
Get the most out of garden flowers by growing species that provide multiple benefits, like these ten drought-tolerant flowers that enable you to grow your own birdseed in beautiful style.
This flower is a garden classic that birds love. The old-time favorite Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) has a black center with bright yellow flower petals, but new hybrid species of this classic flower come in different bloom color choices. Black-Eyed Susan bloom from summer through fall and require a location in full sun.
This flower is also known as gayfeather (Liatris spicata) and produces a purple spiked flower head with seeds that the American goldfinch cannot pass up. Blazing Star blooms in mid-summer and prefers a sunny location.
Little has to be said about how much birds love sunflower seeds. Plant a few sunflower (Helianthus) in the garden or landscape for towering beauty and attracting a wide variety of birds.
Purple Majesty Millet
Another tall and majestic flower that grows to be about five feet tall and produces a one foot long bloom that is filled with food for the birds. Purple Majesty Millet (Pennisetum glaucum) will grow equally well in sun or shade and produces colorful foliage and flower stalks from spring through fall.
Often mistaken for zinnias, the Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia) loves sun and heat, making it a care-free flower choice to grow in hot, drought-prone climates.
Birds will feast heartily on the cones of the coneflower and the wide bloom color range will fit into any garden scheme. Coneflowers (Dracopis amplexicaulis) bloom from mid-summer through early fall.
Cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) loves to grow care-free in full sun and will produce an abundance of birdseed from summer through fall on its red, daisy-shaped flower heads.
Coreopsis (Coleophora acamtopappi) is a drought tolerant flower that will flourish in the hot summer heat with little water and birds love them.
Fall Flowers That Produce Birdseed
Spring and summer birdseed producing flowers have been covered, now for two fall flowers that will keep the birds fed and happy until the snow arrives. Autumn Joy Sedum and Goldenrod are the two flowers to plant for fall garden color and birdseed. Both plants need full sun and will begin to bloom when the other garden flowers are fading.
Some plants are multi-taskers, such as the ten flowers listed above that will not only add beautiful color and texture to a garden, but will also allow the gardener to save time and money by growing their own birdseed.
Pasture land is abundant in the mountains and foothills of north Georgia. The rich soil makes for plenty of green grass for diary cattle to feed on and the Georgia climate makes raising cattle for both dairy and beef production a lucrative business. The rich, organic milk produced by these healthy and happy cows is also the perfect starter for making homemade butter.
It’s not uncommon to see signs advertising fresh, homemade butter for sale when driving along the winding roads of north Georgia. Neither is it uncommon to see roadside stands selling homemade, organic butter or mom and pop type restaurants advertising the freshly churned product is served alongside of their hot, homemade biscuits.
Homemade butter has been and still is a common product made and sold in this area, but it’s also a product that can be made by anyone, anywhere. All that is needed to make your own fresh, organic sweet cream butter is two ingredients and a blender.
Cream (any amount)
Salt (to taste, optional)
The salt is an optional ingredient when making homemade butter. It does nothing to help the cream turn into the finished product, which is good news for those on a reduced-salt dietary plan. You can make homemade organic butter without a trace of salt if desired and a variety of herbs or other flavoring can be added to enhance the flavor of the home-churned butter.
Butter Making Process
Pour the cream into a blender or food processor and blend on medium speed for five minutes. The cream will begin to noticeably separate into butter and buttermilk, when you notice that occurring, stop blending and allow cream to sit for two minutes so all the butter can rise to the top.
After butter has risen, slowly pour the buttermilk out of the blender or food processor into another container. Use the back of a large spoon to press all the buttermilk moisture out of the butter.
Leave butter in blender or food processor and pour in 8 ounces of ice cold water and blend on medium speed for 30 seconds. This ice water processing washes the butter and acts as a natural preservative that will enable the homemade butter to last for months when stored in the refrigerator. Pour water out of container, pressing butter to remove all moisture. Spoon soft butter into small a mixing bowl.
Stir in desired amount of salt or other desired flavoring at this stage of the butter-making process. A favorite southern flavoring is honey, which is great to spread on top of hot cornbread or biscuits.
The southern climate lends itself well to growing a host of fruit, including the famous Georgia peaches and abundant varieties of apples. However, the warm, humid climate and abundance of available food sources in the south also create the perfect environment for fruit-eating pests.
In order to sustainably grow fruit southern fruit tree growers had to develop methods of organic pest control for their fruit trees. Bagging the fruit while it’s still on the tree is one of the most effective and widely used methods forms of organic pest control for both home and commercial fruit tree growers that want to avoid using harmful pesticides.
Bagging fruit right after petals fall will protect the developing fruit from being destroyed by coddling moth, curculio beetles and any number of other hungry small pests. The downside to bagging fruit while it’s still on the tree is that the bags do not offer protection from larger fruit-eating predators, like squirrels or birds.
Fabric or plastic can be used to create protective bags, however each material presents its own unique challenges to use.
Bags made from white, row-cover type fabric will keep small pests away. the special row fabric will also allow moisture to drain away and air to circulate around the fruit. Anyone with basic sewing skills can create fabric bags for organic pest control. A basic square design with a drawstring top will work to bag and protect most homegrown fruits and will last for several years of usage.
Plastic zip-top type sandwich or storage bag will easily and effectively provide organic pest protection, but the southern summer heat can also cause the fruit to steam before it ripens.
To use this method of organic pest control, place a zip-top sandwich or storage bag over each fruit cluster and zip the top shut around the stem. Cut corners off the bottom of bags to allow moisture to drain out and air to enter. Keep in mind however, that plastic bags also provide the perfect environment for attracting apple-destroying curculio beetles. Curculio beetles lay their eggs in tiny, developing apples and can easily fit through the small drainage holes which must be cut in the corners of plastic bags.
Bagging the fruit, even with the challenges each type of material presents, is still the best organic, chemical-free method of pest control for fruit tree growers.