Growing Chestnuts at the Allotment

Growing Chestnuts at the Allotment

Chestnuts roasted are a particular traditional favourite at Christmas and are not to be confused with 'conkers' that are Horse Chestnuts and are inedible. A Sweet Chestnut tree is deciduous and can grow very large over many years; you can wait for as long as 20 years for fruits to form, however you can use coppicing techniques to limit the size and grafted bareroots to plant, which may provide fruit sooner. There are modern varieties that will fruit after just a few years.

Sweet Chestnut trees should be planted in full sun during the dormant months of late autumn and early spring. Dig a hole large enough for the bareroot and water in well. The base should be vegetation-free and you can mulch up to retain moisture and supress the weeds. The tree will not form fruit if it is planted in the shade.

Young trees will require watering during dry spells until it becomes established. Chestnut trees require very little or no pruning.

Be mindful of squirrels and fungal diseases that may affect your tree and cropping.

Sweet Chestnuts produce long male and female catkins during the summer months, which the bees and pollinators enjoy. The female catkins then form the green, prickly casing that houses 1-3 Chestnuts inside.

The formed and ripened fruits will fall and split so that you can harvest the Chestnuts during early to mid autumn. It is advisable to wear gloves for handling the prickly Burrs, especially if you need to cut them open.

Sweet Chestnuts can be eaten raw but are normally roasted.


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Growing Chestnuts in Summary

Planting Chestnuts

  • Bareroot trees to be planted during late autumn to early spring
  • Plant out in full sun
  • Water in well

Growing Chestnuts

  • Water during dry spells until established
  • Be aware of squirrels and fungal disease
  • Mulch around the base

Harvesting Chestnuts

  • Early to mid autumn when the burrs have split and dropped
  • Remove chestnuts from their burrs
  • Best roasted