Once a staple of the American furniture industry, American chestnut trees (Castanea dentata) today are rare and are not commercially available as saplings. Gardeners must plant from chestnut seed. Chestnut blight, which arrived in the United States in the 1800s on Japanese chestnut trees, decimated the American chestnut in the 20th century. The tree rewards a patient gardener with a large yard. Mature chestnuts may reach 100 feet tall.
Select a site that offers sun exposure and well-draining soil, as chestnut trees prefer an acidic soil and morning sun over afternoon sun.
Dig a hole 2 feet deep with a shovel. Fill the hole halfway with mixture of 1 part peat moss and 1 part sand. Fill the hole the rest of the way with soil. Drive a small garden stake into the soil to mark the location. Southern gardeners should do this in winter; northern gardeners in spring.
Place a chestnut seed into the soil in October (regardless of location), pressing it lightly into the soil at the prepared site. Cover the seed with 1 inch of peat moss.
Cut the bottom out of a 1/2-gallon milk jug with scissors. Drive the jug into the soil around the stake to create a shelter for the seed. Tie the jug's handle to the stake. Cut a section of wire mesh 2 inches larger than the opening at the milk jug. Attach this with duct tape over the opening in the jug to create a closed shelter.
Leave the planted seed alone through the fall and winter until frost danger has passed for your area in the spring. Remove the duct tape holding the wire mesh over the shelter so the chestnut seedling can grow.
Water the sprouting chestnut tree so the soil becomes moist. Continue to care for it in this manner until August, which is the end of the growing season. Remove the milk jug tree shelter.
Continue to water the chestnut sapling from spring to August of each year, always watering until the soil is moist, not saturated. Fertilize the growing chestnut tree by applying 1 to 2 inches of compost or manure around the base of the tree in the spring.