We first planted hazelnut trees in our orchard in July-Sept 2010. We currently have around 5000 trees planted. Our aim is to expand up to 14000 trees on our 160 acre farm over the next 5 years. A mature hazelnut tree is approximately 15 years old and hazelnuts have been known to be productive until they are over 80 years old.
We are entirely pesticide free and minimise our herbicide use, in particular we do not spray anything during or leading up to nut fall. Nuts have a fantastic natural barrier in their shell that protects the kernal from any contaminates. We wash the in shell nuts prior to cracking.
We use natural fertilisers such as kelp and fish extracts as well as crushed lime. In 2016 we began using compost tea as a mechanism to boost soil and plant health. We also occasionally use additional fertiliser for specific deficiencies such as Boron.
We’ve shielded the young trees with plastic wrap to reduce sunburn and low level branching though mainly to protect against damage from rabbits. They are quite devastating on some trees, eating the bark extensively from about April to November.
Currently we are mowing the sward (bit between the trees) and mulching it into the tree line to maintain soil health and biodiversity. We also use a spot spray of herbicide to manage the grass and weeds immediately around the tree in early spring. We also spray to manage the multiple suckers that generate from the tree trying to become a bush which is its native habit. We need to maintain a tidy sward and single tree trunk in order to harvest mechanically.
We have planted Barcelona, Lewis and TBC as our nut producing varieties in 3m x 6m grid with every sixth row a pollinator row including Epsilon and J5. It is out estimation that once the trees are about 20 years old they will be over crowded and that is when we will chop out every second tree to reach a mature spacing of 6m x 6m. Hopefully the trees will have produced enough nuts in their shorter lifetime to warrant this strategy.