Frugal Gardening: Caring for Walnut Trees

by Mira Dessy

Dear Mira,
I am a recent convert to The Dollar Stretcher, having been recommended to take a look by an american friend. I like your column very much and hope you can sole this gardening problem. We moved to our present house about three years ago and brought with us a very small walnut tree sapling which I planted round the side of the house, where it is doing fine. I am worried that as it grows it will undermine the foundations as it is only four feet away from the side wall. How do I go about moving it to a better spot , and when would be a good time to do this. We live in South West England and are having one of the driest April's on record so the ground is dry and cracked.
Geoff & Rosie

Dear Geoff,
Walnuts are wonderful trees. They provide a lot of shade and, of course, the nuts. Some walnuts can be very prolific. You don't say what type of walnut you are growing, but there are a couple of truisms that apply to all walnuts. First of all, early spring is usually a good time to transplant since it gives the tree ample opportunity to set down adequate roots and recover from transplant shock. Also remember that most walnuts require a lot of moisture t propagate properly, an important point since you say that you are going through a very dry season right now!

A lot of walnut varieties require deep, well-drained soil and are very sensitive to alkaloids, meaning that you will need to fertilize properly to make sure that the soil has the proper alkaline balance and nutrients it requires, Since I don't know what your soil is like you will probably have to contact a local authority to find out what your soil type is. According to my references most walnuts benefit from a neutral or slightly acid soil base, meaning that you may have to provide "fillers" for the soil to provide the proper nutrients and soil base required for the tree. If your soil is too acid, limestone will help to neutralize it.

Since I don't know what type of walnut you have, I can't guarantee that you will get fruit from it. Quite a few varieties require that you plant multiple trees to ensure cross-pollination. You may want to check and see if your walnut variety requires cross- pollination and what the minimum spacing requirement is for such plantings. In researching this I discovered that planting distances can vary from 35 to 50 feet.

Also, as a side note, many crop bearing trees require 3-5 years to bear fruit and it has been my experience that transplanting a tree can delay this process slightly. Hope this helps.

Mira specializes in commonsense, inexpensive solutions to gardening problems. If you have a question for Mira email her at

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