Nut trees can thrive in valley

We are thinking of adding a few nut trees. We understand that walnuts, pecans and pistachios will grow here in the valley. Do you know if that is factual? Any information would be appreciated.

— Nancy

There are a number of nut trees that can be grown in western Colorado. Walnuts are probably the most common.

We can grow both Black Walnut and English Walnut here. Black Walnuts are plenty cold hardy, but you’re better off to opt for a hardier variety of English Walnut. The old standby is a variety called “Carpathian.” It’s been grown locally for 30 or 40 years at least.

There are also a number of pecans that grow in the valley. You’ll generally need two varieties of pecan to get nut production. You want an early pollen shedding variety and a late pollen shedding variety. Pecans are a bit pickier about the soil they grow in so do a good job amending the soil when you plant them by mixing in a good amount of decomposed organic matter.

Both walnuts and pecans require a lot of patience for nut production. They won’t begin producing usually until they’re 8–10 years old.

Almonds also are grown here occasionally. They’re close cousins to peach trees so hardiness and care aren’t much of an issue. Like pecans, most need a second variety for pollination, but there are a few self-fertile varieties available.

The biggest problem we have with almonds is that they bloom very early, often before the apricots do, so it’s not uncommon to lose your crop to a late frost.

One variety you might consider is “Hall’s Hardy.” It blooms later than most other varieties so you’re more likely to get a crop but the shells on the nuts are rock hard, kind of like a black walnut.

There are a handful of pistachios in the valley, but I consider them to be pretty marginally cold hardy. A cold winter will usually kill or freeze the plant down to the ground. You’ll need a male and a female to get nuts (and those only on the female).

They’re a small, almost shrubby tree that, frankly, is not the prettiest tree around unless you prune and train them aggressively when young. Try to put them in a protected spot or somewhere next to the house.

When is the best time to prune peach trees?

— Mary

The best time to prune fruit trees is very late winter or early spring just before the tree breaks dormancy. Around here that usually means mid- to late March. It varies a bit depending on the weather.

Doing it too early in the spring sometimes can cause the plant to push out growth earlier than normal, and late frosts can damage that soft new growth or the flowers and developing fruit.


What is the best time to drain my irrigation system?

— David

Most people with ditch water will be “winterizing” their sprinkler systems in the next two to three weeks. They’re waiting usually as long as they can so they can continue to use that cheap water as they need it.

The underground portions of your sprinkler system won’t be damaged until the soil down 6–8 inches freezes in late November or early December. You just have to be careful about any above-ground parts like pumps, filters and back-flow preventers as these can freeze and be damaged with just a good stiff freeze one morning.

Many people have drain cocks to quickly drain these devices so they can be recharged when the weather warms up and you want to water again. If you’re using domestic water, you could wait until early November to do it as long as you’re watching any vulnerable above-ground parts.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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