In this Instructable, I will do my best to show you a step by step process of how we turned a useless piece of land into a small hazelnut plantation. And of course, none of you readers will need to go through the same exact process to start a plantation of any sort. But I decided to share our experience so that maybe you can grab a few tips for yourself, or learn something new about hazelnuts, or maybe just sit back and watch how we do land work here in the post-soviet Republic of Belarus.
There isn't much to planting and growing your own hazelnuts, but if you're trying to plant a small or large plantation, then there's a little more to it than just sticking a twig into the ground. And the biggest task we had to face in this project, was uneven ground level.
Spring is finally here and it is just the right time to do any kind of gardening/planting. This season we were able to extend our property by about 40-50 square meters, so we decided to use it for hazelnuts since they can potentially bring us a profit here on the farm.
As I've already mentioned, growing hazelnuts is very simple. In fact they are one of the easiest if not the easiest nuts to grow! So if you live in the temperate climate zone, you're good to go!
Step 1: Examining the Property
As you can probably see in the pictures, this property is basically a large low spot that turns into a swamp in the wet seasons. And even though we have reasonably dry summers here, the area will still be too low for planting just about everything - including hazelnuts - which require good drainage. So we had a good amount of ground leveling to do here!
Step 2: Tools/Equipment Used
- Tractor with cultivator
- Tractor with rotary tiller
- Tractor with trailer
- Excavator for digging water reservoir
- Bulldozer for leveling and moving dirt
- Shovel for leveling and planting
- Hazelnut plants (110 in our case)
- Dog for company!
Step 3: Time and Cost
The whole project from start to finish including holidays/lazy days/ busy days etc,.
Start Day: April 1
End Day: April 27
Almost 1 Month!
1 year old Hazelnut plants: 100 plants at $1.50 each = $150
2 year old Hazelnut plants: 10 plants at $2 each = $20
Property costs = $0
Excavator 1.5 days of work: = $215
Bulldozer work 3hours: = $0 (friendly neighbor)
Fence = About $50
Step 4: Demo Part 1
First thing that we did here was remove the old fencing guarding off the small water canal. We reused the old fencing on other parts of the property since it was still in pretty decent condition, so that saved us a good chunk of time and money.
The shrubs you see in the photos above are the type that grow in low, swamp-type areas. So if we see these guys come up again, we'll know we did a bad job of leveling.
We removed the shrubs using cultivators and rotary tillers, which you will see in a few steps.
Step 5: Demo Part 2
Before we began working on this property, it was overgrown with large bushes and tree-type shrubs along the fence. So we had quite a bit of chainsaw cutting and shovel digging to do to get rid of as much of the roots as possible. We even had our mighty german shepherd help out with the bigger roots!
Step 6: Ditch Cleaning
Since this area was extremely low, we needed a lot of ground to raise it and level it out to the right height. Therefore we cleaned up the ditch running along the road by digging it a little deeper and wider while spreading the dug out ground around the field.
Step 7: Excavator Work
For the heavy digging, we hired an excavator to dig a small pond connecting with the canal. The ground was loaded onto a tractor trailer and taken out to the farther ends of the field.
Step 8: Cultivate
While the leveling was still in process, we had cultivators and rototillers work on leveling and smoothing out the surface of the field. This was the final step before we could start planting the nuts.
Step 9: Soaking the Roots
Now that the field was partially ready, it was time to get planting. Usually before we plant our plants, we like to soak their roots in water until we're ready to put them into the ground. That way they get their final dose of water and are ready for any drought in the first few days/weeks in the ground. It's sort-of like a kick start for the plant.
Step 10: Row Guides
We used this simple technique to keep the rows equal distance from each other and in straight lines. We hammered a wooden stick into the ground at both ends of the field and connected them with a string. The rows are each separated with a 3 meter stick.
Step 11: Plant
To plant Hazelnuts, you don't need to dig a deep hole. Just deep and wide enough to submerge the roots in the soil. And since our field wasn't yet completely level, we didn't even dig holes for the plants in the low parts of the field. We just stood the plant up at ground level and covered it with dirt. This way it was on a mound with the top of the mound being at ground level.
Step 12: Planting Distance
So the rows are separated by 3 meters and within the rows, the distance between each hazelnut bush is 2.5 meters. About all hazelnut bushes grow as vase-shaped, multi-stemmed shrubs that reach from 2.5 to 5 meters tall and about 3.5-4 meters wide. So this distance is just suitable for hazelnuts since cross pollination is important for them to yield crop.
Step 13: Soil and Fertilization
Hazelnuts can thrive in most soils from heavy clays to sands.
pH range - can thrive between 5.0 and 7.0; can be tested in soils up to 8.5
They respond dramatically to fertilizer in terms of both, plant growth and nut bearing. So therefore we covered the surface around the plant with cow manure.
Step 14: Water
As we all know, an important step when planting any kind of plant is watering. The root system needs to adapt to its new home and water helps the soil form a tight bond around the roots. The stronger the roots, the stronger the plant.
Step 15: More Leveling
At this point, half of the field was already growing hazelnuts while the other half still needed some leveling. So we had this large bulldozer haul ground to all the remaining low spots of the field.
Step 16: Leveling Between the Plants
We also dumped dirt between the plants that were planted in the low spots. The color contrast makes it a little difficult to see what's going on in the picture since everything is basically one color. But try to look closely to better understand what I'm talking about. The dumped ground is slightly above the level of the hazelnuts and will later get spread out throughout the field.
Step 17: Before and After Leveling
Here is a little before and after leveling. now you can see how low the low spots actually were and how much land was required to raise it up.
Step 18: Border Work
While some parts of the ground were still getting finished, we took a little break from planting hazelnuts and went to transplanting pear trees. I know many of you will probably say that these trees are too large to get transplanted, and I will agree. But we didn't have much of a choice. We needed to move them from where they were before asap, so we're sacrificing a few trees with an expectancy that a few may not make it. But we're doing a good job of watering so we just might get lucky. The best way to transplant trees is while they're still young (the younger the better.) And it's best to do all this in the cold months of the year before the trees start sprouting leaf buds and while they're still in winter hibernation mode.
Step 19: Planting the Second Half
We now got to the second half of the field, repeating the same old process, one plant at a time. Also, we threw some manure around the pear trees to increase their chances of survival.
Step 20: Pole Holes
Now that all the important spring work was done, we started to fence off the property to protect it from any intruders. And since we might end up extending the property once more some time in the future, we decided to put a temporary/removable fence up. So we dug holes and put in oak poles all the way down the property.
Step 21: Overview
Check out the photos for an overview of the property. I know everything is hard to see because everything is ugly and gray after the winter, but later in the Instructable I will include more recent photos where some green life is starting to show.
Step 22: Coating
To slow down corrosion and increase the life of the oak poles, we coated them with used motor oil. That's how they got their color.
Step 23: Rails
For the rails between the poles, we also used oak to increase the fence's life span.
Step 24: All Done!
We finished up the fence with poplar picket boards and we were finally all done! Now the hazelnuts have sprouted their leaves and seem to be prospering in their new homes. It will take them about 5 years to bear fruit so we've got some waiting to do. But once the nuts do start appearing, we'll be selling them for around $8/kg (no shells). Each bush can provide an average of about 1kg of nuts per season so after we do the math, we'll be making around $800 for each 100 bushes we plant. Not a get-rich-quick type of crop, but it'll make an extra penny on the side.
In the future, we plan on expanding the plantation and growing our own hazelnuts by planting cuttings instead of purchasing each bush. This way we will minimize the investment costs and will start making a profit sooner. This idea will also minimize risks of future profit loss since investment costs will be much lower.
I hope this instructable was worth your time and hopefully you have been motivated to go plant hazelnuts yourself or just plant something in general! And if you have, share your story, comment, or idea! Thanks again for your time, and remember, the land is always full of potential so lets make good use of it!
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