Now that October is here, it is time to consider planting hard mast trees for future seasons. Keep in mind that doing this now allows trees to focus on growing strong roots over the winter. While most hunters consider oaks to be the staple for hard mast, there are many other hard mast that should be considered. The reasons for this are many – such as oaks can be cyclical, and not produce and abundance of acorns season to season, based on weather and other environmental conditions. Diversity is what becomes important, and this means everything from the drop times of hard mast trees, to offerings when oaks don’t produce in off years.
Here are a few trees to consider planting this fall and winter – all of these generally do well in Virginia.
These oaks are fairly hardy, and will generally grow in some of the poorest soils. The acorns that are produced are certainly sought after by wildlife about as much as white oaks. Generally, these oaks tend to drop mid to late October.
Sawtooth “Gobbler” Oaks
This oak, not to be confused with a regular Sawtooth, is one that usually is able to produce acorns at a much younger age than some other oaks. The acorns are smaller than most, and are a great option for early bow season to draw in wildlife, usually dropping in mid-September to mid-October.
American chestnuts used to be prevalent across the Eastern US prior to a blight that destroyed most all of them. Since then, many hybrids have been developed, like Dunstan’s that are blight resistant, and produce an abundance of nuts for wildlife. Dunstan’s are a much larger nut, averaging 15 to 35 nuts per pound. This is a great option for supplementing oaks, these can generate nuts in as little as 3-5 years in perfect conditions.
Much like the Dunstan chestnut, the Chinese chestnut is a great nut producing tree – there are many arguments among wildlife managers as to whether Dunstan’s or Chinese chestnuts are the preferred chestnut source – we say plant them both! This variety is a great tree for is resistance to blight as well.
This tree is a relative to the American chestnut and can at times be susceptible to blight, but is fairly resilient. Its more in line with a very tall bushy shrub at times, or a shrubby tree topping out around 20′ – as opposed to an oak and the Chinkapin Oak. The nuts are smaller, and great for wildlife, growing in appearance like other chestnuts. These are a fantastic option which will produce nuts at a fairly young age in ideal conditions.