Establishing New Plantings - Synopsis

Nursery stock

Plantings are made almost exclusively using "tubeling" plants; these are mini-containerized seedlings approximately 4 months old at planting. Dormant and active tubelings are available. Other kinds of stock are possible but difficult to obtain.

Ground Preparation

Both no-till and full till options exist. Normal steps: Roundup® spray to kill sod; subsoil if possible/necessary to break hardpan/plow pan; disc. The ground should be left level; if being machine planted, the planter path may need to be rolled to firm it. For planting windbreaks, etc., in places difficult to machine, planting directly into untilled, killed sod can be satisfactory if soil compaction is not excessive. Contour strips can be tilled, leaving sod between rows.


Machine planting is done with transplanters normally used for tobacco, strawberries, or vegetables. Not all such machines handle the tubelings adequately. Rates over 1,000 plants/hour are obtainable in good ground. These machines do best in well tilled, firmed soils with few rocks; do poorly in sods or unincorporated corn residue.

Hand planting can be done with a shovel, bulb planter, small auger, post-hole digger, or dibble. The most important factor in planting standard tubelings is that the roots not be crushed in the transplanting process.

Standard tubelings are planted from late May right through September, October in Zone 5 or warmer; bare-root dormant tubelings are planted like other dormant tree stock.

It is best if all transplants receive some water at the time of planting.

Survival rates over 90% are achieved with good practices; average is more than 75%.

Care After Planting

Water - for average soils, if rain does not provide 1/2" of water per week during the first month, the plants should be watered; if possible deliver the equivalent of 1" to each plant. In "normal" weather (by Midwest corn country standards) watering should not be necessary after the first month- the roots will be settled and functioning by then. In droughty soils or regions, watering for 2 months is advisable. Watering in the second year is not necessary.

Weeds - good weed control is highly beneficial. Herbicide use has proven difficult so far. Cultivation is possible, but can become a problem in wet years. Mowing on either side of the row is effective and has several benefits. Mulches can be used, but require careful installation and maintenance; incorrectly done they can kill the hazels. Trials with landscape fabrics have generally had problems.

Fertilizer - contrary to what most of us have been taught, experimentation has consistently shown that the plants benefit greatly from immediate fertilizer availability. BRC practice is to provide a moderate fertilizer in the water supplied at planting. Inappropriate fertilization is possible, but generally: moderate to heavy fertilization rates will be entirely beneficial; no negative effects have been observed, survival is increased and growth rate improved.

Ground Covers - cover crops between rows have not been extensively researched; avoid covers that grow tall and heavy. Dutch white clover mixed with bluegrass works well. The hazels will survive and compete successfully with alfalfa.

Animal control - newly plantings may be attacked by deer and rabbits, particularly if no vegetation remains to distract them. Egg spray has been the most effective deterrent, raptor roosts are best for rabbits.

Establishing New Plantings- Details

Newly planted hazels respond very strongly to weed control, fertilizer, and reasonable water availability. The range of practices in use run from total neglect to luxuriously cared for plantings with irrigation and individual "tree shelters". All can work; there is a direct relationship to the amount and timing of care given and survival, growth, and onset of nut bearing.

One of the early breeding directions at Badgersett was to select only those plants that were capable of survival during establishment even when badly neglected. ALL initial breeding populations underwent years of calculated neglect. This, we feel, is commonly the fate of "trees"- planted with the best of intentions, they often are neglected in the press of other urgencies; trees, after all, can take care of themselves- and if they cannot stand it, the planting will be lost.

Results of that strategy are threefold: 1) These hazels' ability to survive terrible conditions is often amazing. 2) Visitors to Badgersett sometimes get the idea that the proper way to establish them is in heavy grass- which is not so. 3) The plants have been somewhat inadvertently selected to put their energy into the roots, only, when they are growing under stress. This can result in what appears to be very slow growth for several years- while what is actually going on is that the plant is accumulating root mass. Once a critical stage is reached, "when" depending on fertilizer, weed control, and growing season variation, as shown on the facing page, even the most neglected hazels will take off, start to make strong top growth, and begin to bear nuts.

Nursery Stock Types

One of the things that sometimes confuses people getting started growing hybrid bush hazels is the nursery stock situation; at present, there is no source of the usually standard one-two year old "bare-root dormant" planting stock. This has been the common pathway for transplanting other kinds of woody plants and trees in quantity for many years; everyone is used to the process; get your ground ready as soon as the frost is out of the ground, and rush to get the little dormant sticks into the ground before they start to grow.

Several contingencies have conspired to make this standard path non-economic for hybrid hazels, at least at present. Yes, such bare-root dormant hazels are available from some large nurseries, but these are either wild hazels or Eurpoean tree-types.

The hybrid bush hazels are only available as "standard tubelings", seedlings approximately 3-4 months old and actively growing in mini-containers- the tubes; or "bare root dormant tubelings"; 6-8 month old plants shipped without the soil, after they have gone dormant.

These standard tubelings in the photo are ready for the field; they have been "decapitated", toughened, and the secondary buds have started to grow. The photo also shows the size of the smaller container we use. This container has a root volume of 6 cubic inches; Badgersett also uses a larger container with 10 cubic inches of soil.





Expected Growth- And the Effects of Care

Green stems indicate present year's growth.