- Common name: Hazel
- Latin name: Corylus Avellana
- Flowers: Male catkins develop on our bushes in late autumn, while the female flowers develop early in the spring.
- Permaculture layer: shrub
Our hazel trees form a lovely, large shrub, with a single thick trunk and multiple smaller shoots. More than one tree is needed to achieve pollination, as they are not self-fertile. However, where we live, most of our neighbours have a tree in their garden, so technically we don’t actually need more than one as they will pollinate from our neighbours’ trees.
The hazel is such a useful tree it’s certainly worth having a few! We have three trees. The hazel produces an abundance of nutritious nuts in late summer, early autumn.
It provides deep shade in the summer for those areas of the garden that need it, and when the leaves fall and rot down, the resulting mulch is a fantastic soil-conditioner. We have dug up quite a bit from around our trees for improving the soil in our vegetable patch.
Hazel can be coppiced to produce a wide range of items! See below.
Hazelnuts will fall naturally from the tree when they are good and ready, so you don’t need to actually pick them, like you would fruit. We have found that the first nuts to fall are often riddled with Curculio Nucum, or Nut Weevil. The tell-tale round hole in the shell gives away the fact that they we’re there. Many nuts looked good, but were light, where the weevil had eaten most of the nut. We got a bit disheartened, thinking that we would have to feed all the nuts to the pigs.
However, after the first few falls of nuts, things improved. We started to get good nuts falling, and we have been able to harvest quite a few kilograms of nuts for winter.
While we did lose quite a few nuts to this pesky weevil, we still got a huge crop. However, next year we will free-range the chickens around the trees so they can eat the grubs that will eventually develop into weevils. Hopefully this will reduce the problem, and give our hens a bonus meal.
We have found that nuts that don’t come away from their husk easily, or are discoloured, are no good, having probably been partially eaten by a weevil, or not properly ripened before they have fallen. The best ones just pop right out of their husk.
Each day we have to gather the nuts that have fallen overnight before the dogs, squirrels, rats and mice get to them. A strong wind will also bring down a huge load of nuts, so it’s worth getting out there as soon as the wind dies down.
If you are really organised you will have strimmed the area around the tree to make finding the nuts easier, or arranged a sheet to collect them as they fall, #learnfromourfail and don’t leave piles of rubble, timber and roofing tiles underneath the tree, it makes finding the nuts really difficult! We aren’t yet that organised.
We put that day’s nuts in a basket and hang them up under the eaves of our roof to dry; if you give the nut a shake you can hear them rattle when they have dried properly. Drying the nuts properly helps to prevent mould developing, so give them a shake every so often to help them dry properly. This also gives time for any weevils that haven’t yet emerged to make themselves known! We check over the nuts before storing them, to look for ones that have developed holes from weevils, or look like they might develop mould. You don’t want your whole batch spoiled by one mouldy nut 🙂
Hazel can be coppiced to provide a range of straight, flexible branches and stems, from which you can make a wide range of useful items, from fences and walls, to baskets, gate-latches and hinges. Since coppicing involves removing the crown of the tree, and hence the part that produces the nuts, we don’t coppice our trees. However, we do allow the many suckers, that grow around the base of the tree, to develop, so we get both nuts and useful timber. We harvested all the suckers in our first year here to build our hazel fence, and now we have lots of first-year new growth, which we may use to make baskets next year, as some of ours are getting a bit old!
To coppice the hazel, simply cut off all the stems that are the size you want, leaving any that are too small to grow for next year. Some people have recommended that you cut so the angle of the cut slopes away from the tree, to aid rain-water drainage, but we haven’t yet found that to be a problem so we haven’t made an effort to angle our cuts. We’ll see if we get problems with excess water around the base of the trees next year!
It’s inevitable that you will not manage to collect all the nuts, and that some will develop into small trees. If you don’t want lots of hazel trees, be sure to dig these up and pass them on to a friend before they invade your garden!
Is there anything we’ve missed, or other uses for hazel that we haven’t found out? Please leave a note in the comments! Thanks. 🙂