Alan Mathewson


HGA newsletter, August 2003

From 2300 Sheep to 2300 Hazelnut Trees in a month! YOU MUST BE NUTS !!!! was the reaction of some of the relatives when we told them we had purchased a property and were going into Hazelnuts. I had been farming (sheep and a few beef) in the Five Forks downlands area of North Otago for the last 14 years in partnership with Janet. Some years ago 

I put in a shelter belt on a paddock near the house with the idea of putting it in Hazelnuts. Local growers Don and Helen Newlands informed me of a field day on his property. I ordered 1200 Hazelnut plants and pollinators from Hazelnut Nurseries and then started looking at where to put them! We decided a separate block from the farm would give more options, so for several months looked around the Oamaru area for a suitable block. 

We were all signed up for a 30 acre block at Teschemakers, just south of Oamaru provided the water bore test results were OK. The first test had shown the water to be high in sodium and a trip to the Otago Regional Council and pouring through all the consent papers and talking to other bore owners in the area, confirmed there could be a salinity problem. I went to do a second water test but the pump power was off so the purchase date was put back a week so power could be put back on for 24 hrs to run the pump for a few hours to see what Sodium levels we got then. 

In that extra week we happened to purchase a Christchurch Press and the feature house/property for the weekend, “Hidden Oaks” at Aylesbury, caught my eye and the words ‘2300 hazelnuts’ especially. On Tuesday I talked to the agent. Wednesday took the family to see it and on Friday purchased the property at Auction and quickly cancelled the option on the Teschemakers property with an hour to spare. We put our farm up for auction and it sold on the 26th June. We took over the land at “Hidden Oaks” almost immediately and the family spent most of the school holidays planting protecting and staking the hazelnut seedlings we had ordered. 

The plantings now consist of 2300 White heart planted in June 2002; 1260 Whiteheart and 340 pollinators planted in July 2003. Spacing is 2m apart in 5 metre rows for the 2300, and this year was put in at 2.5 x 5. Future plantings next year 2200 approx, will most likely be at 2.2 x 4.5. Pollinators are at 3m spacings. We are busy still getting more shelter in as Alders are the main internal shelter; 450 planted with 200 to go. I took the scrub cutter to all the Crowsnest poplars that had been planted last year, before they got any bigger!! We planted one row of Veronese Poplars on the Eastern boundary of the property. This variety I have planted a lot in North Otago and like because they are very wind/dry tolerant, hold their leaves well into June, are relatively narrow and upright, and not too aggressive with surface roots.  The last weeks we have been busy installing the irrigation for the new block. The existing is all irrigated by automatic Hunter control system. Ray jet sprinklers, 34 litre/hr per tree are used. These are inverted for the first year or two and as the root system develops they will be turned up the correct way to cover an area of ~2.5m diameter. They are on a metre length of tube off the lateral pipe so can be shifted from beside the tree to in between later on. A new main and Typhoon dripper system is being installed to water all the shelterbelts. I must also acknowledge the assistance and help of Keith and Kathie Hanning, and Fred Fields for their encouragement in our endeavours.