The Chinese chestnut is not susceptible to the blight that virtually wiped out the American chestnut. The plants are self sterile so more than one seedling or variety must be planted. Rainy weather during flowering, in July, will reduce fruit set.
Plant bare root trees in the spring. Dig a hole large enough to hold the entire root system spread out in a natural manner. Do not allow the roots to dry out during planting. Do not fertilize the first year after planting but do apply a thick mulch of hay or straw. Water each time the soil is dry through the first summer but gradually reduce watering in late August and September.
Newly planted trees are given 1 1/2 pounds of 12-12-12 or an equivalent fertilizer. The rate is increased by 1 1/2 pounds each year until 1 to 2 pounds of actual nitrogen is being applied per 1000 square feet.
Mature nut trees need about 1 to 2 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year. This can be supplied by applying a lawn fertilizer or a garden fertilizer such as 12-12-12. An alternative method is to apply 5 to 6 pounds of 12-12-12 or an equivalent fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter. Check to make sure the recommended rate of of 1 to 2 pounds of actual nitrogen is being applied.
Head back branches that are too long and prune off lower branches to aid lawn mowing. Stems that form a sharp angle with the main stem should be removed as soon as possible. The tight V crotch formed by such branches is weak and susceptible to splitting.
Young trees are injured by the feeding of rodents. Rodent guards can be purchased from nurseries or mail order nurseries. Rodent guards may be made from quarter inch mesh hardware cloth. The guard must extend high enough up the tree so rodents can't stand on the snow and feed on the trunk. Such protection should only be needed for 5 to 7 years.
The nuts of chinese chestnut are borne in burrs which open to release the nut. The nuts drop during a two week period and need to be collected every day or two to keep rodents from carrying them away. Place the collected nuts in a shady, cool, and well-ventilated spot to cure them.
The starchy nuts are not very flavorful after harvest but become sweeter when stored a few days at 50 to 65 degrees. Do not let the nuts get too dry.
Storing Chinese Chestnut
Chinese chestnuts can be frozen. They may also be stored at 30 to 45 degrees in one to five gallon cans. Make holes in the top of the cans to aid air circulation.