We have all the chestnut seed nuts in their seed trays bedded down for their long winter’s nap. We can fairly predict what we will be able to grow for 2020. Because of the almost complete failure of our chestnut crop, we were not able to harvest seed nuts from most of our outstanding chestnut trees. You will see a great change in what varieties we offer this summer for chestnut seedlings.
Because of the almost complete failure of our chestnut crop, we were not able to harvest seed nuts from most of our outstanding chestnut trees. You will see a great change in what varieties we offer this summer for chestnut seedlings.
One bright point is the new variety “Resilient”. This 29 year old chestnut tree is the only one out of over 1,000 bearing trees that was able to stay healthy and put on a full crop of nuts despite all the weather extremes. We will be offering seedlings from this tree as well as ‘Ohio Outstanding’. ‘Ohio Outstanding’ seedlings are from some of the best trees in a large commercial planting in Ohio.
You will also find we are offering chestnut trees in two sizes this summer: “small” and “medium”. To fulfill the demand for early planting in May, we will be offering chestnut trees grown in 58.6 cubic inch pots that will be available a month earlier than our standard/medium sized trees grown in 78 cubic inch pots. Both pots sizes are 9 inches deep and are designed to keep trees from becoming root bound. Because the trees can quickly fill the smaller pots with roots, the smaller trees will be released from the nursery earlier at a discounted price. These trees will be available by pre-order only. We are potting them up based on the orders we receive.
You will notice a price increase as well for small orders of trees and for trees of known parentage. The cheapest option for trees, at $4 each, are for orders over 100 of our small trees from the PQK selection. The PQK selection are seedlings who have either Peach, Qing or Korh for a mother tree and another grafted variety as a pollinizer.
Please feel free to email or call with your questions before placing an order. Remember you can mail a check with your 25% deposit to hold trees at our nursery to avoid using PayPal or paying credit card fees.
Practical Farmers of Iowa hosted a workshop on growing chestnuts commercially. They videoed the conference. This video of Tom goes into details about Establishment and maintenance. You will find the same details in our chestnut primer (available on this website for down load). If you don’t like reading, enjoy the video:
The weather extremes of 2018 – 2019 in southeast Iowa will be affecting Red Fern Farm into 2020 as we deal with the shortage of good quality chestnut seed nuts for our nursery. Our chestnut trees were damaged by weather events and for the most part did not set a crop in 2019. As a result, we were not able to gather seed nuts from many of our own named varieties or any of their crosses (Red Fern Super, Shotgun, QingSu, BadgerQing, Giant Badger I or II, Large Badger). We purchased seed from other sources. As a result we will have a limited number of seedlings available from known grafted mother trees. These seedlings will have a price mark up to reflect their limited numbers.
We will have a cheaper option that includes what was sold to us as a “bulk” seed. We know the bulk seed came from 3 types of grafted mother trees: Peach, Qing and Kohr.
As we create our seed trays, we will create an estimate of how many trees we will have available of each variety and list them as available for ordering on our website. You can then order your trees. You have the option of paying in full with a credit card on the website (requires an additional 3% fee to cover the credit card fees) or mailing a check. The check option includes no extra fees. The check option allows you to pay down a 25% deposit on the order. The deposit will hold your trees at our nursery until August 31.
We will have no bare-rooted chestnut trees available for shipping Spring of 2020. – Kathy Dice
You-Pick at Red Fern Farm has closed for 2019. Below is the information we posted for the season when it ran.
You-pick at Red Fern Farm is still by reservation only. You can call a day ahead to see if there is an opening or schedule your harvest day weeks in advance. We have lots of openings on weekdays, but weekends fill up quickly.
New this year is a $15 minimum. This $15, paid when you first arrive, covers the time it takes us to show you around the groves, train you on what and how to harvest and taste samples of fruit and nuts. After paying the $15, you don’t have to buy anything at our farm. If you do make a purchase, the first $15 is already paid for. How cool is that? The $15 is per group. As an added bonus we will be utilizing our new “Red Shed” to weigh you out at the end of your harvest. No need to drive back to our house for your weigh out.
The weird weather from fall of 2018 into the spring of 2019 has caused severe damage in our groves. Some trees will take years to recover. Each crop has been affected differently. You will see notes below. We will not be able to host as many customers this year in the pawpaw patches and there will be NO Chestnut You-Pick.
What to Expect: You can usually drive up and park close to the spot you will be harvesting. We have clean latrines, hand washing stations and picnic tables at each parking area. This is a safe area for children, but no dogs or cats are allowed (food security issues).
The grass will be mowed, but not as fine as a lawn. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, prickly chestnut burs are scattered on the ground. Our orchards are in a rural setting, close to “wild” timber. Bring bug repellent. Your children are welcome to observe and catch the frogs, insects, spiders and snakes they encounter. Please ask your children to be gentle and release all creatures before you leave the groves.
Aronia Berries: The Aronia bushes are loaded this year. The berries are available free for you-pick (see note on $15 visitation minimum above). They will hit the peak of ripeness during early September. We only have a few bushes still bearing fruit. They are located in the shade of chestnut and heartnut trees. Call for more information.
Hazels: (Still available as of 9/29/19) A decent crop of Hazels are available. Hazels are available at $1.00/pound for un-husked clusters or $2.00/pound husked nuts for you-pick. The season for hazels usually starts in late August and continues to mid-September. Hazels can be picked from the bushes or from the ground underneath. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into. It can take 30 minutes for one adult to pick clean one 10 foot tall bush and gather about 1-3 gallons of hazel clusters. One gallon of un-husked nuts (an ice cream bucket full) will yield about one pound of husked nuts. If you are interested in saving hazels for seed nuts, we have free information available – just ask.
Cornelian Cherries: (Season is over for 2019) Cornelian Cherries are available at $2.00/pound for you-pick. The season has been mid-August to mid-September. We recommend bringing a gathering cloth to spread under the bushes. The ripe berries are soft and sweet. Under ripe they are firmer and very tart. They will continue to ripen after picking. We have none available already picked (the family eats them up too fast).
Pawpaws: 80% of the pawpaw flower buds froze off this past winter. There is a much smaller crop available for 2019 and it is ripening later. For 2019, the pawpaw season runs from late
September to late October. Pawpaws are $3.00/pound when you pick them, $5.00/pound when we pick them. Bring buckets, boxes or crates. Ripe pawpaws are very soft and should not be stacked no more than 2 deep. Weekends are very popular, so call early to reserve a time slot. Tuesday – Thursday is an excellent time to have the pawpaw patch to yourself. It only takes about 15 minutes to get 5 – 10 pounds of pawpaws. Late afternoon is the best time to pick, but ripe pawpaws will be available all day. Recipes are available. There is no minimum or maximum for the amount of pawpaws you pick. We do ask you only pick what you plan to take home. We have many grafted trees. If you want to see what grafted variety you like the flavor of best, bring a black sharpie with you. You can write on the outside of the pawpaw what the variety it is. When you eat it later, you can compare it with other varieties.
American Persimmon: Persimmons are available, but took a hit from the past weather. We have a smaller crop, but still plenty for our customers at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick them. The 2019 season starts in late September and continues to mid-October. Persimmons are very soft when ripe. They should not be piled deeply in your gathering container. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into. They can be gathered from the ground or picked from the tree. Slightly under ripe persimmons are very astringent. Only orange persimmons will continue to ripen off the tree.
Heartnuts: Heartnuts got through the crazy weather just fine. Heartnuts are available at $2.00/pound for un-husked clusters or $4/pound without husks (they husk very easily) for you-pick. The season for heartnuts starts in early September and continues to mid-October. The nuts are gathered from the ground under the trees.
Asian Pears: The only Asian pears we will have this fall are Korean Giants that ripen in late October. The fruit of Korean Giants are large and excellent keepers, even at room temperature. They are available at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick.
Spicebush: Our spicebushes froze to the ground this past winter. No spicebush berries for 2019.
Chestnuts: Not available for You-Pick in 2019 – Sorry – What happened? Very unusual weather. The fall of 2018 was very wet. The soil was saturated from September 2018 through June 2019. In October the weather was still warm and the trees did not harden off for winter. In early November, the winter hit with very cold temperatures. The trees that had not hardened off enough for winter took severe winter damage. Then when Spring came, we got record amounts of rainfall. During May and the first half of June we averaged one inch of rain each day for 6 weeks. Chestnut trees like well drained soil. All that water kept soaking in and keeping the ground around the roots saturated. Our tree roots started dying. In June many trees had still not leafed out. We were afraid we had lost 80% of our mature chestnut trees. In July we started to see recovery. Now in August we think we only lost 10% of our trees, but there was no chestnut bloom in June and hardly any burs on the trees. We now believe we may only have a few nuts, but not a real crop in 2019. As such we are not opening our grove specifically for chestnut harvest. You are welcome to harvest what you find while here (see $15 minimum above), but we discourage people to come just for chestnuts.
See the previous you-pick season posts on how we ran the you-pick in 2017 & 2018 for chestnuts.
2019 Chestnut You-Pick Prices: If you manage to find any chestnuts, you pay $2.75/pound for everything you picked up. We discount that price by 25¢ if you come on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. On these days the price is $2.50. If you don’t want all the nuts, we will pay you 50¢ for each pound of chestnuts you gather and don’t take home.
We will be having a field day with the help of the Savanna Institute on Saturday, July 20, from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. We are limiting this to just 50 people. The field day is free, but you do need to pre-register at: https://savannainstitute1.wufoo.com/forms/zwti6jv0ecrq7g/ .
During the afternoon we will be touring the groves of chestnut trees, pawpaws, American persimmons, Asian pears, heartnuts and much more. We will also discuss how we market using you-pick for our fruit and nuts. We will not be talking about our tree nursery or how to raise trees (that is a field day in itself). Part of the afternoon will be spent discussing the damage our trees took with the recent
volatile weather and our plans for replanting dead or dying trees.
This will be a relaxed, low key field day with lots of time for questions and answers and touring the groves. Feel free to contact us with your questions but head to the Savanna Institutes website to register at https://savannainstitute1.wufoo.com/forms/zwti6jv0ecrq7g/. – Kathy Dice
This was posted June 28th, We have now closed the Raspberry patch for the year.
We have a bumper crop of black raspberries this year. We are offering them to you-pick customers for $3.00/pound. If we pick them, they are $10.00/pound.
Tom started mowing paths around the berry patches back in May. Now there is a network of paths in our “wild” woods edged with wild black raspberries. This is rough ground. In some places there are stalks of plants sticking up or munched up thorns from Honey Locust on the paths. There are mosquitoes and black flies. There are also lots and lots of berries. Two customers the morning of June 28 casually picked 5 1/2 pounds in about two hours. You will need to
bring your own boxes, but you can drive up close to where the paths start.
If you are interested in picking, contact us. We will try to schedule you so you have a huge area all to yourself. You can call 319-729-5905 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
A great conference will be held in Southeast Iowa at the end of July 2019. the Northern Nut Growers Association (NNGA) and North American Fruit Explorers (NAFEX) will be holding a joint conference at the Graduate Hotel in Iowa City, Iowa from Sunday July 28 to Wednesday July 31. You can see more details on the NNGA’s website at https://nutgrowing.org/nnga-2019-annual-conference/ . The cheapest, early bird registration fees, end July 3rd, so check it out soon. You can still register up to the day of the conference.The conference will include over 40 speakers with topics on hazels, chestnuts, sour cherries, pawpaw, walnuts, currants, pears and more. Tom Wahl will be helping with a grafting presentation along with talking about seedling versus grafted chestnut trees. Registration is open and there are many options. You can attend one day and skip dinners or splurge and take all the offers to network with other nut and fruit tree growers. Contact Kathy at email@example.com if you have questions. – Kathy Dice
Numerous articles and advertisements in outdoor and hunting magazines are promoting the idea of planting chestnuts for wildlife. It is true that chestnuts bear heavy crops of nuts that are very attractive to a wide variety of animals. On the other hand, some of the claims aimed at deer hunters are wild exaggerations, or downright lies. Chestnuts do not make good trees for attracting deer during most deer hunting seasons. Chestnuts tend to ripen very early for a nut crop. They begin as early as late August in the Deep South and even in the North they are usually all finished up by the middle of October, well before most deer seasons. Chestnuts are very attractive to deer, but only for about one month out of the year. After that, the deer will be off looking for other food. A few late-ripening chestnuts are available as grafted trees, and while these may be useful to both deer and deer hunters in the Deep South, such trees are utterly useless in the North. Chestnuts ripen and fall early for a reason – the nuts are absolutely ruined by freezing temperatures. Once the temperature of the nut falls to 24 F, the embryo is killed. When the nut thaws, it begins to decay. At that point, even the squirrels won’t eat it. How often does your deer season start before the first hard freeze in the fall?
The American Persimmon is actually a much better choice for attracting deer to a property and then holding them there through the hunting season. Persimmon fruit is just as attractive to deer as chestnuts are – maybe even more so. While some persimmons ripen and drop their fruit at the same time as chestnuts, others produce a massive crop of fruit that begins dropping from the tree in November and continues all winter, right up until early spring. Freezing temperatures do not damage the fruit, and wildlife will continue to consume it all winter long. Deer are known to bed down near persimmon trees and listen for the sound of falling fruit. Hunters report deer often come running from several directions at the sound of a persimmon hitting the ground.
One thing to keep in mind is that persimmons come in male and female. Normally, only female trees produce fruit, and normally only when there is a male tree in the vicinity.
Another tree that is exceptionally good at attracting and holding deer is the dwarf chinkapin oak, Quercus prinoides. Most oak trees don’t begin bearing acorns until they are at least 10 to 15 years old, and then only bear a good crop once every few years. Dwarf chinkapin oaks can begin bearing as early as 3 years old, and tend to bear a heavy crop every year.
Furthermore, their acorns are among the sweetest and most attractive to wildlife, of all acorns. The acorns are not damaged by freezing weather and remain palatable all winter long. The trees are broadly adaptable and will thrive just about anywhere except on poorly drained soil.
If you are interested in attracting and holding deer on your property during hunting season, give us a call or email. – Tom
Practical Farmers of Iowa has been working with Red Fern Farm to put together a full-day chestnut workshop. This workshop will cover all aspects of chestnut production and marketing in the Midwest and will be held at the Iowa Arboretum, Madrid, Iowa, on February 2, 2019, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Topics will include site selection, planting and tree management, varietal recommendations, grafted versus seedling trees, harvesting and curing, marketing, and financial resources.
Chestnuts are a valuable nut crop that can be grown in a low-input, chemical free agroforestry system that includes permanent ground cover. Depending on soil types, they can be an excellent crop for land designated as highly erodible. Seedling chestnut trees of superior genetics can begin bearing nuts after 3 – 4 years on a good site and with good management. At 12 – 15 years they can produce 3,000 or more pounds per acre. In Iowa, chestnuts wholesale for an average of $2.30/pound.
The profit potential of chestnuts has encouraged the planting of chestnut groves throughout much of Iowa. Roger Smith, manager and owner of Prairie Grove Chestnut Growers, buys and sells chestnuts. In 2018 he sorted, bagged and sold over 84,000 pounds of chestnuts grown in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois. He sees no end to the market potential of chestnuts and plans to plant an additional 20 acres of chestnut trees to his existing chestnut groves.
Speakers will include Roger Smith, Tom Wahl of Red Fern Farm, Aaron Wright District Forester with the Iowa DNR and Mike Gold, Associate Director of the Center for Agroforestry – University of Missouri. Preregistration is required and costs $10 to $60 depending on membership in Practical Farmers of Iowa. For more information, or to register, visit https://form.jotform.com/tamsyn/pfi-chestnut-workshop or call Debra at Practical Farmers of Iowa at (515) 232-5661.
We will be updating our website as to what trees will be available for purchase in 2019 around the end of November, 2018. At that time we will know what our seed supply looks like for chestnuts, heartnuts, pecans, pawpaws, and persimmons. Also in November we count the trees we plan to make available for bare-root in April of 2019. The only chestnut variety we will have available as bare-root trees in April 2019 will be Mossbarger.
Each year we will have limited number of some varieties of chestnut tree seedlings. Some will sell out very quickly. All trees we sell are good for Iowa and usually for adjacent states. Pay attention to hardiness and know your growing zone. – Kathy