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Recent entries

Kevin Hahn

Food Plotting

Dunstan Chestnut Trees

Mon, April 07, 2014

My interest in chestnuts started a few years back when I read about a how deer were really attracted to chestnuts— evidently deer prefer chestnuts over acorns according to some who have producing trees,  so I knew I had to get some for our farm to try them.  If you ask me if deer are truly more attracted to chestnuts, I will tell that I hope so but I have not yet formed an opinion on that for I am still waiting for my chestnut trees to produce their first crop.  I would also tell you that many deer hunters are truly attracted to Dunstan chestnut trees and when these trees become available for sale in the spring each year, it’s not very long before they are sold out. 

I bought my first Dunstan chestnut trees in 2011 as bare root trees directly from the nursery in Florida.  Then in 2012, the nursery started selling potted trees through select Walmart stores.  News travels fast via the internet world and there were many reports of these potted trees that were being sold at Walmart stores were larger and slightly cheaper than the bare rooted trees.  In 2012, I think the only Illinois Walmart store that sold Dunstan chestnut trees was the store in Marion, IL.  One spring day in 2012 I was in the Marion area (less than an hour away) so I decided to drive to this Walmart and try to purchase some trees.  When I arrived they were sold out. In fact the sales clerk informed me they sold out the first day.

Fast forward to 2013.  
I got word that Farm King Store locations in Western Illinois would be getting a shipment of potted Dunstan chestnuts from a nursery in Florida.  Not trusting that supplies would last until my arrival, I called the manager at the Macomb, IL Farm King Store and was able to convince him to hold 5 trees for me—at that time the trees had not even arrived.  The manager called when the trees arrived and the next day I drove to the store to pick them up.  When I got to the store, they were completely sold out of the chestnut trees except for the 5 trees they held for me.  As I said before, many deer hunters are highly attracted to Dunstan chestnut trees. As a side benefit, deer hunters may be helping to restore the chestnut tree in many parts of the United States.

My prized potted Dunstan chestnuts trees from 2013

So Why Dunstan Chestnut Trees
The once widespread and plentiful American chestnut was wiped out in the US during the early 1900’s due to a chestnut fungal blight which was most likely introduced with imported Japanese chestnut trees.  However, in the early 1950’s a single American chestnut tree was found alive and healthy amongst a grove of dead chestnut trees in Ohio.  Dr. Robert Dunstan took scion wood from this single living tree with natural resistance to the chestnut blight and eventually developed what is now known as the Dunstan chestnut. 
For more information about Dunstan chestnuts, follow this link:

Illinois Stores that will have Potted Dunstan Chestnut Trees in 2014
The following are Illinois stores (listed below) that will have potted Dunstan chestnut trees in 2014.  The website states that the trees will arrive by May 5, 2014.  I tried calling the nursery today to get more specific information about shipping dates but only got voice mail.  If history repeats itself, the safe bet is that the trees will sell out quickly so I would make calls to the stores to get specific information about actual arrival dates. 

For a complete listing of stores, including surrounding states that will carry Dunstan chestnut trees, follow the link below.






Orchards - Time to Prune

Sat, April 05, 2014

I always try to write my articles about food plotting in near real time as I am doing various activities.  It’s been a while since my last post on food plotting and I am blaming that on Mother Nature for she certainly has been dragging her feet getting to spring-time weather this year.  This extended winter has given me a case of cabin fever/depression and I just have not had much desire to get outside to do much until this week. 

My change of attitude is the result of a business trip to Carbondale earlier this week where the temperature was 74F, redbuds and daffodils were blooming, and the sun was even shining.  That was exactly what I needed to begin to recover from my cabin fever and during my drive back home I begin thinking about all the things that I needed to do at the farm this spring.  In almost a panic, I realized that I had not yet pruned the fruit trees in the orchard—something that in a “normal” year is always done during the month of March while the trees are still dormant. Pruning or removing the undesirable “dormant branches” results in the robust growth of the remaining desirable branches when dormancy finally does break.  Waiting to prune after dormancy break will not yield these same robust growth results.  Pruning during dormancy is especially important for young trees, enabling them to grow to fruiting size sooner.  The oldest trees in my orchard are just 4 years old, so I rearranged my scheduled Friday and headed to the farm to get the pruning done.

Not Pruning is harmful to the trees
The biggest mistake that can be made when it comes to pruning fruit trees is to not prune them.  I sense that most people do not prune fruit trees because they are not sure how to do it, think they might ruin the tree, or simply don’t understand that “not pruning” is actually harmful to the tree.  Pruning fruit trees, especially during the first 5 years after planting, is critical to establish the correct architecture of the tree and will proactively prevent many future problems.  Without the correct architecture of the tree, the trees will not be as productive, tend to have branches that break or split the main trunk, and have more disease and insect pressure which eventually affects the longevity of the tree.  Don’t be afraid to prune your fruit trees for failing to prune will inflect far more damage to the tree in the long run.

For more detailed tips on pruning fruit trees, Check out my post about pruning from last year.

If you are thinking about starting and orchard, check out my post on establishing an Orchard.

Some Pictures from the orchard yesterday
The whole goal of pruning fruit trees is to remove undesirable branches and create a tree shape with growth that is layered (scaffolds) and directed outward from the center of the tree.  This will allow air movement into the center of the tree which will help with disease control and also allow the tree to capture the most sunlight for fruit production.  For my apple and pear trees, I use the “center leader” system for shaping trees.  Here are some before and after pictures from Fridays pruning activities.

Pictures of apple tree before and after pruning to discourage inward growth and to establish scaffold layering of branches with outward growth.

Pictures of Bartlett pear before and after pruning.  Note: This particular tree wants to grow more vertical than outward horizontal.  I have been fighting this tree for 3 years to encourage layered outward growth with extremely heavy pruning.  If left unpruned, this tree would have heavy branching in the center of tree and would be the shape of a “raindrop”. This “raindrop” shape would limit fruit production to the very top and outside of the tree only.  Don’t be afraid to apply aggressive pruning during the early years of fruit tree growth to establish the correct architecture of the tree. 




Think Spring: Tree and Shrub Plantings

Thu, January 30, 2014

This week as an act of defiance of the extremely cold weather, I turned my thoughts to the coming spring and placed orders for a few replacement fruit trees for my orchard—I ran over one with the tractor and killed another by getting too much glyphosate on the base of the trunk.  If you are interested in more information about fruit tree orchards for wildlife food plots, you can read an article that I wrote last year on that subject (click here).  In addition to my fruit tree order, I placed a fairly large order for conservation grade potted 4-5 ft. oak trees.  It will require “all-hands-on-deck” for my family and me when these trees arrive for planting.  The oak trees will be planted in areas of my timber that I did hack-n-squirt treatments last summer and fall to kill undesirable trees according to my forest management plan.  If you are interested in more information about “hack-n-squirt” methods for timber stand improvement (TSI), you can read an article that I wrote last year (click here).

I am also working on a list of shrubs that I will soon be ordering.  I have a special interest this year in taking steps to improve the habitat to benefit deer.  My motivation comes from my concern about the current condition of the deer herd in the area of a couple farms we hunt and thus I am planning to do more habitat work than ever before this winter and early spring. In addition to tree plantings, habitat activities will include hinge cutting to thicken areas in the timber and planting shrubs in transitional areas for cover and browse.

Order while supplies last
Because many nurseries can run short on inventories, now is the time to place orders for trees and shrubs for spring plantings.  The following is a list of suppliers that I have used over the years. If you have other good sources, please post a comment and share them with others.  In addition to the nurseries listed below, I have also got trees and shrubs through various Illinois Dept. of Conservation programs, contact your local NRCS office for potential opportunities.

Forest Keeling Nursery:  Trees,  (including conservation grade), shrubs, and many perennial prairie plants.  Located in Elsberry, MO.

Chief River Nursery Co: Bare Root Cedars.  Located in Grafton, WI.

Chestnut Hill Tree Farm:  Dunstan chestnut trees.  www.
Note: Chestnut Hill Tree farm also offers Dunstan chestnut trees through select Walmart , Rural King and Farm King stores.  They will list these select store locations on their website as well as post shipment dates .  At this time, this information has not been posted.  Check their website weekly if interested.  Trees go fast, I found I needed the call the stores and check availability and then have them hold the trees for me to ensure they would be there when I arrived.

Missouri Dept. of Conservation State Forest Nursery:  Seedling trees and shrubs

Fruit trees:  see my blog post on orchards (click here). 


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