HGA newsletter, winter 2003
In this issue our growers’ corner takes a look at the hazelnut operation at the Nutt Ranch in Blenheim, and we are listening to Bev and Dave Null.
This property was purchased in 1995 as 8ha of pasture land. The land was purchased with the growing of hazelnuts in mind. The land is marginal for horticulture use and is in a dry area of Marlborough.
Hazels are not deep rooted and our soil, although light and stony, is rich and has good PH. Norwesters are a bother in early summer as the hazel leaves are fairly delicate and can sustain some wind damage. We have an excellent water supply for both ourselves and our irrigation.
At present we have 3000 trees with 500 at 7yrs, 500 at 5yrs, 500 at 4yrs, and 1500 at 3 yrs.
Our main crop is a New Zealand bred hazel, “Whiteheart”. It is an excellent confectionery nut with a fine nutty flavour. It fills the shell exceptionally well and blanches nearly 100%. We have Narrowed our pollinator range over 5 years to 4 which work well for us. These are Alexandra (best), Merville de Bowiller (good), Butler (earlyish), and Ennis (earlyish).
Our tree spacings are somewhat different thanwhat most written material suggests. The Whiteheart is not a large tree and it is fairly upright. We have chosen 4 meters between rows with 3 meters between trees in the row.
We are using Nitrofoska as a general fertilizer in late Winter. The amount is based on soil and leaf testing during the previous season. Our plan is to replace what elements are used by our trees and see annual growth of between 150-200mm in the season.
We try to keep the centre of the tree open with no crossing limbs. We remove some fruiting wood from most trees to promote new growth. We shorten to an outside bud all extra long growth. We try to leave as large a framework as possible.
Our irrigation consists of 50mm mains with 40mm leaders and 19mm laterals. We are using 4litre/hour drippers which are serving us well. We keep close records on all irrigation during the dry summer. We have found that the Hazels need extra irrigation during nut formation and then again during their final maturing.
The Whiteheart variety produces large amounts of suckers at the base of each tree in early summer and again in early Autumn. We spray with Buster when the suckers are young and tender but clean up the trees with the secateurs during the Winter.
Our harvest is done by hand as a family affair, but our plan is to eventually operate a vacuum running off the tractor’s PTO as the trees become larger. Our nuts are washed carefully and then dried in onion sacks in the sun to about 5% moisture content before cracking, shelling, grading and sorting. We store the shelled nuts in plastic drums until sold.
To The Future
We have just completed a commercial kitchen and a building for the processing, retailing, and storage of nuts. Next year there will be a need for a full time worker in the orchard…..the tractor needs replacing….the harvesting and shelling of the nuts must become more mechanized to speed the processing and save our backs.
We would also like to see more people sharing their experiences and knowledge. Contact with other growers and processors is extremely important for the industry.
And, of course, we wish to find the time to just sit on our veranda and enjoy the day!
We consider the marketing of our products to be as important as the growing of the nuts. Our marketing strategies are based on the quality and freshness of the products and/or their health giving properties. We sell from the “ranch”, from markets, by order, and by e-commerce through our website which has become an exciting part of the business.