My Black Walnut Tree Grove

Dear Bay Weekly:
    Recently published here was an article about black walnut trees, mainly about their impact on surrounding plants [Bay Gardener: Feb 11]. I thought to balance this article by adding something about the impact of the surroundings on black walnut trees.
    I planted a grove of around 150 black walnut trees, and this account is based on my experience.
    I have just taken a photo of my grove, although during winter they do not look their best. However, the image illustrates much of what I have to say.
    The most obvious thing about my grove, which is about 15 years old, is that the growth of the trees is different in different places, and this despite the fact that in the early years I kept replacing young trees that died.
    I am pretty sure now that drainage is the problem. So enemy number one is water.
    Then, my neighbor planted fast-growing pine trees alongside the grove. They overhang my trees (and property) so I cut them back. So enemy number two is other trees. Black walnut is a slow grower and easily gets pushed back.
    Also, the power company trimmed the tops off my end row of trees. So enemy number three is humans.
    Finally, in the early days, following advice, I sprayed so carefully with RoundUp to keep back the grass. Within a year, about 20 percent of the small trees had died, and a few more in the following years; I replaced them. So enemy number four is the owner.
    I am growing and trimming the trees for timber, telling myself that they will pay for the education of my as yet unborn grandchildren. Despite that, they are now bearing nuts. This year I gathered a trashcan and a half full. It is February, and I still have some left. They are delicious and creamy. I now know how to wait till the meat is just right to eat, and I manage them in batches. My black walnut cracker was a great investment. The flavor is better than anything you can buy in the store.
    My trees are on a 10-foot spacing, and at some point I need to thin them. But I love them all. Besides, they are overgrowing one another, and so they are self-selecting. There is a lot of pleasure in nurturing a black walnut grove.

–Hugh Tornabene, Harwood

Editor’s note: Read The Bay Gardener’s original article at