Black Walnut Tree Farm - New Owner

dspero80July 7, 2014

Hello All,

I recently purchased a house with about 6 acres of black walnut trees. I'm looking for some advice on how to care for and maintain. The previous owner spent a great amount of time putting down round-up along the rows of trees and mowing in between. There are many other types of trees mixed in; Ash (almost all dead or soon to be, thanks EAB!), sugar maple, oak, tulip, etc. The majority are black walnut, however. All grown to be veneer wood. I estimate somewhere in the range of 700 trees. I think it could be worth a bit of money someday. The white oak have been horrendous with sprouts on their trunks. I've pulled off the little, non-woody sprouts and will try to get the rest in the fall/winter when dormant.

What would you recommend I do to keep up with the trees? Should I continue to round-up and around the trunks and mow the rest? It looks really nice but all said and done, it's about 5 hours of mowing a week! As you can see in the picture, they still have a good 20 years to go before any real value. I am at a crossroad as I've got little free time to spend on the trees due to my job and family. I also worry about the spreading thousand cankers disease. Thoughts?

Thanks for your help!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i HIGHLY RECOMMEND.. that you contact your county extension office.. and ask for a referral to the state forester.. who cruises thru your county every now and then ..

frankly.. with mature trees like that.. all you can do is harm them...

leave them alone ... mow as previously ...

and i can tell you how to round up.. if you like the design ...

if its taking you 5 hours to mow.. get a riding lawnmower.. you are property owner now ... my zero turn 38 inch.. looks like i could do that inside 15 mins or so.. but perhaps the pic is deceptive ... its definitely not a push mower thing.. nor is the rest of the lawn i see ... unless you have one [i see tire tracks] .. but it doesnt fit down the rows .. crikey that would p.o. me.. lol..

but do keep in mind.. the trees dont need to be mowed weekly.. like you might prefer the rest of the lawn ....

BTW .. where are you????

more facts please ...


    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 10:46PM
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Hi Ken,

Thanks for the quick response. I'll check on the state forester. I do have a GrassHopper mower with a 61" deck that I mow full speed on. Including the lawn around the house, it's a total of 10 acres that, except where the trees and house are, is lawn... So yes, the trees take about 2.5-3 hours to mow, the rest around 2.5. I've been mowing the tree area every couple of weeks and the rest every week. So, maybe not 5+ hours every week, but it's still a lot of time. I don't mind, and most of the time enjoy the work, I'm just wondering what others would recommend.

As far as round-up goes, I bought the knock-off version from TSC a few weeks ago. It appears to kill the grass but is having a tough time with the weeds in the tree rows. I'm thinking I should spend the money and get the real stuff. However, real or not, I do worry about the safety of the product.

I'm in southwest michigan. Thanks again for your response!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 11:08PM
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6 acres of black walnut is a lot of future CHA-CHING! You are sitting on a gold mine there. I'm glad to see that you plan on putting forth upkeep on a black walnut timber stand. I stopped a semi truck driver a few years back who had these huge timber logs on the back of his low boy. I asked him what he was hauling and he said black walnut. Then I asked if it was really worth that much money. He looked at me and said "Ya see that load right there, That's worth a quarter million easy!" I couldn't believe it. Anyways, I heard here recently from a reliable source that thousand cankers disease seems to be affecting black walnut in more urban conditions and way less in timber situations. Is it still a threat caused by a beetle that's closely related to the elm beetle that caused the demise of the American Elm at an alarming rate? You bet. But from what I was told, it's the back walnut trees that are stressed from urban conditions that seem to be more susceptible. I hope this is true because I am in prime black walnut country.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 2:30AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i use generic TS RU ...

thats not your problem... i suspect you may not have studied the label ... different weeds require different dilutions [annual vs perennial vs vines vs stunk killing] ... i go with what i think is level 2 ... or about 2 5/8 oz per gallon ... or lets just call it 'just under 6 oz' for my tank ...

the real trick is to learn your sprayer.. filled with water... and learn how to make big drops.. that gravity makes fall to earth ... and the biggest variable with that is just enough pumps to create such.. using too much pressure... makes it drift like perfume .. and that isnt usually good ...

you can also adjust the nozzle... and when you get real good.. the trigger ... and when you master it all.. you can make single drops come out the tip ....

anyway ... i understand why the grass was kept from the trees when they were seedlings or small transplants...

what i dont understand is why it needs to be maintained... with mature trees as such ... except as an aesthetic ... to look pretty ...

those trees are now super competitors ... finding and taking.. everything they need.. no grass nor weed is going to have any impact on them ... so i really dont understand why you need to mow more than once or twice per year ... if that ... in regard to the trees.. rather than perhaps zoning issues ...

and that would be a prime subject for the forester.. where is +om when you need him .. lol ..

as you can see at the link ... i have failed in google... for lack of proper words to search ... thought nuts are technically a fruit.. you are not really dealing with high fruit production crop trees... like apple/etc .... so the info in regard to such.. is not narrowed to the issue which you face ....

i am in Adrian MI

there are a lot of orchards out your way ... and they may be a great source of info ... if you can talk to the manager ... and a reason.. the forester probably loops thru your area often ... the orchard.. may even be able to give you a contact ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 9:07AM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I would think keeping the trunk clear of limbs as high up as practical would be the highest priority. You want straight clear wood with as few knots as possible to get top dollar for the walnut wood.
Got a pole pruner and a good orchard ladder?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 12:53PM
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you should look into silvopasture.....instead of spending your time and money on gas and herbicides you can get some sheep or cattle to clean up and fertilize at the same time (manure). Sheep would probably be better because they will cause less compaction of the soil. You could make an extra profit on the meat and wool.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 2:52PM
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Cattle would be out of the question as any damage to the trunks would be a problem. Not sure about sheep...

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 3:23PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

Fences aren't cheap and the cost of a flock of sheep is expensive, both in money AND labor. Sheep are more economically feasible on open range.
Pretty soon the walnut canopy will be so complete hardly a thing will grow under it, then what will the sheep eat?
I'd check the walnut log buyers and see what length and diameter they prefer, and work from there as far as the pruning and harvesting goes.,... out of the heat. It's almost 80F. out there! ;-)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 5:18PM
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I would just buy one of those portable electric fences and hook it up to a solar panel. Have a backup charge just in case.After the sheep have eaten everything within the fence move it somewhere else. Six acres should be more than enough to have a constant supply of green grass. You dont need many sheep either just a few...also, walnuts do not create dense shade.....they leaf out late and drop early so there is going to be an understory of some herbaceous plant.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 5:49PM
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Mowing in a tree plantation seems like a waste of time and money. Rent out the huge lawn area for hay if it is enough acreage.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 6:03PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

boy have you all gone off the deep end.. how did this end up a conversation on animal husbandry ... did i miss OP suggesting that was an option ... lol ..

mike.. complaining about 80 degrees... yikes ... lol

one further thing i thought of.. i have 5 acres... i leave one acre or so ... uncut ... and as former horse pasture.. i call it a wildflower garden ...

perhaps you are fixated on keeping it as the prior owner did.. mowed .. and that isnt necessary ... so why mow it.. you have plenty of lawn .. so why mow at all????

it would start to look more like a natural forest ... rather than a green carpet with big trees in it ... i would favor the natural look ... or rather.. use that for an excuse not to mow.. lol ...


    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 9:44AM
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Thanks for all the advice and opinions! If I have more time someday, I may try to keep up with it all. For now, I think I will try the natural look.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 9:16AM
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