Many people opt to grow hickory nuts because they want a ready supply of nuts on hand for cooking and eating, while others grow the nuts so they can sell their hickory seedlings to tree nurseries and the seedlings and nuts at local farmer’s markets. Growing hickory nuts is easier than most people think, though it can take a decade for trees to produce nuts. People who grow hickory nuts feel the wait is well worth it because the price of nuts continues to increase.
Plan to collect your nuts in early autumn. Collect the nuts from trees in your area to ensure that the species is viable for your region. Do not put off collecting nuts until late autumn as many of the nuts will already be carried off by squirrels who are packing them away as a winter food supply.
Use a hammer or nut cracker to loosen the outer husk of the nut. You can recycle the husks in a compost bin or discard them. You can plant your nuts directly, or you can soak them in water for two to three days prior to planting. Soaking them in water may help to speed up the germination process. If you do soak your nuts in water, be sure the nuts have dried out before planting.
Choose planting spots for your hickory nuts. The nuts will thrive in areas with full sun and well-draining soil.
Dig holes 3 inches deep and 25 feet apart. Place up to three nuts in each hole and backfill the holes with soil.
Add a flat layer of mulch to the ground and secure a piece of screen over the mulch. Secure the screen to the ground with nails. The screen will keep squirrels from digging up your nuts over the winter while still enabling the nuts to receive sunlight. Water the planting areas thoroughly.
Remove the screen over your planted hickory nuts in the spring. Add more mulch if your original layer of mulch eroded away over the winter.
Add a 10-10-10 application of fertilizer over and around the planting area and repeat the process once a month during the growing season.
Water the area weekly until you see sprouts breaking through the ground. If you are having a very wet spring, you can forgo the weekly watering.
Thin out the smallest and weakest seedlings from each planting area when the seedlings are roughly 10 to 12 inches tall. Leave the tallest and healthiest seedling. You have the option of discarding the smaller seedlings completely, or transplanting them to a new growing site.