Photo of Nick Nelson Parker in front of healthy walnut tree trunk

May 2010

Perhaps I should start by introducing myself. My name is Nick Nelson Parker. In the late 1970’s we started planting an experimental walnut orchard/forest. This photo was taken this spring in front of one of my 31 year old walnut trees being grown for timber. It is also one of my earlier selections for nut quality.

We are now winding down nut gathering operations in the orchard, lifting our collection nets at the conclusion of harvest. At least I thought we were! Having just gone out to lift more netting, I was confronted with another dump of nuts after the rain. Oops! The extra nuts will be welcome.

Every year I get it wrong. It always looks as though there are hardly any nuts on the trees just prior to harvest. This season really fooled me. Halfway through, I was telling friends and family we only had a quarter crop. Now with this unscheduled top-up we are going to get much the same amount as last year. Does anyone else have the same problem predicting harvest levels? Has anyone got a way of estimating crop the summer before? What is the fluctuation in crop that you experience from season to season?

Exacerbating my error in estimating the crop this year was huge differences between varieties. My genuine Wilson Wonders had a genuine crop failure, while the Roadside 12 trees had a very respectable yield. (Wilson Wonder was probably the first grafted variety grown in New Zealand. It is a large table nut, popular with home gardeners. Roadside 12 is the second variety we released to the public. It is also a table nut, but we selected it because of its heavy regular cropping and attractive shell.) I am only talking about these two varieties here to illustrate the effect of last spring weather, rather than saying either variety is best. When you plant a walnut tree you are locked into that variety for a long time. After 30 years you still have the same tree, but 30 years of selection has happened in the meantime, and new plantings will probably be quite different varieties. Does anybody want to discuss walnut varieties? We are producing new varieties every year from the thousands of seedlings we planted. At present I am looking for someone to host a variety trial. Any takers? It consists of 5 trees each of 7 varieties at 5 metre spacings. Contact me if you might be interested.

Anyway, we had an unusual spring; cold and wet, culminating in 2 days of fog. You could see the impact of the fog. The male catkins started rotting off immediately. By the time we applied our copper spray, there was hardly a male catkin to be seen. The steady rain of unfertilised little green nutlets falling to the ground made me worry about the coming harvest. The reason I share this is to generate some discussion about spray timing. We had booked a helicopter to arrive when the shoots would be at the “praying hands” stage you see on the walnut websites as the best time start applying copper. See page 14 of the spring 2008 Diamond grower news:

Have other people got experience of spraying for blight? How effective has it been?

I have deliberately kept this initial blogletter short, as I am sure it will get more interesting when we are able to share feedback and spark off each other’s experience.

When my dad was in Prisoner of War camp in World War II, there was an annoying little man in his bunkroom who used to say, “Kick me, beat me, shout at me, but whatever you do don’t ignore me!”

Your hoping not to be ignored blogger,

nick nelson parker

Access to subsequent blogletters will require the current treecrops members’ password for privacy reasons, as outlined in recent literature.