Growing an American Chestnut Tree
The American chestnut is one of several species of the genus castanea. This deciduous tree quickly reaches from 100 to 150 feet tall with a wide canopy. The chestnut tree produces fruits that are edible either raw or roasted, tasting better when roasted. The 'horse' chestnut is unrelated, belonging to a different genus.
Planting American Chestnut Tree Seeds
You can sow directly outside in October by digging a 2-foot square hole that is 2 feet deep. Fill the hole halfway with compost and allow to settle from rain, adding a wooden stake in the center. Then fill to top with back fill. Plant the seed inside a tree shelter, pushing the tree shelter 2 to 3 inches into the ground and securing to the stake. Plant seed about 1 inch deep.
Alternatively, you can sow indoors in late February or early March. Use a newspaper sheet to make a cone small enough to fit inside a 2 foot tree shelter, and staple together. Fill with a mixture of half peat moss and half sand. Press a seed down 1 inch, covering back with soil mixture. Set the cone in a plastic container. Water regularly.
Transplanting Chestnut Tree Seedlings
Plant outside in the spring after the last frost. Dig a hole 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide. Carefully tear off the top and bottom couple inches of the newspaper cone. Hold the seedling above the hole, plant the seedling so that the bottom of the roots are several inches above the bottom of the hole.
Refill with soil, piercing the newspaper with a knife as you secure the seedling in place and watering as you you go. Press the soil in tightly around the plant to remove air pockets. Install a wooden stake next to the seedling and secure a 2 foot tree shelter to the stake.
Maintaining a Young American Chestnut Tree
Mulching a young chestnut tree helps protect it against drought, weeds and cold. Mulch with dead leaves a couple of inches thick around the tree, keeping the mulch several inches from the trunk of the tree. Although chestnut trees are drought-resistant, water at least one gallon per week during times of little rainfall.
Fertilize with a water-soluble, high nitrogen fertilizer if desired, but only in the winter or early springs. Adding manure and other organic materials regularly can help build up poor soils.
Tree shelters help protect the young tree against animals and the elements. For trees planted directly by seed, remove the shelter after the second growing season, in August. For the trees planted outdoors as seedlings, remove shelters after the first growing season, in August.