Hazelnuts from seed in modular air-prune beds

This post describes a little bit of the process that led to these boxes of seedlings succeeding. These hybrid hazel seedlings are available for people near me (in downstate and central NY) and this is also a low-tech opportunity for anyone interested in doing it themselves.

I will update this post soon with specifics about time and resources required to propagate these ~1,000 hazelnut seedlings. In the mean time I can say that this is accessible for folks with some time, transportation to gather materials, and a medium-to-full sun spot the size of a parking space.

Mid-summer view of air prune beds growing hazel and red oak seedlings

Above: Mid-Summer seedlings. Below: Winter stratified hybrid hazelnut seeds first waking up, getting planted in 6 to 8″ deep in air prune beds described below.

Hazelnut seeds awakening from winter stratification! Late March 2020.
This photo shows each layer of growing medium (described below), from the first layer of mulch on the right side to all layers almost done on the left side.

Details of layers in the box: Bottom of bed is 1/4″-gauge hardware cloth stapled to black locust scrap wood box. Barely decayed wood chips cover bottom inch of box. Next two inches are very decayed wood chips. Next 2 inches are potting soil. Nuts placed on that in 1×1″ grid, with occasional sprouting garlic clove mixed in for rodent deterrence. Another 1.5″ potting soil on top of seeds, watered well. Mulch added on top to regulate soil conditions and protect against erosion. Hardware cloth will guard these nuts from small mammals until they are seedlings, at which point deer/rabbit fencing will be the bigger focus. Growing medium based on most accessible resources and conserving highest quality soil with minimal use of fossil fuels.

Hazelnut seeds ready for topsoil covering, with sprouted garlic interspersed to discourage small mammals from looting this seed stash
Hazelnut seed bed half covered with topsoil, half awaiting topsoil, all awaiting mulch and cage on top.

Tight spacing is suitable for growth and enables me to grow more seeds with less materials. These seedlings may be stunted due to high density, even to the extent that they will need a 2nd year in a nursery mound before field planting in a low-maintenance orchard. That is my plan for most of them anyway, or distributing 1st years for planting in gentler home spots. They’ll be transplanted as bare root trees.

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