Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do I harvest and store nuts?

Walnuts, butternuts, hickories, pecans and filberts should be harvested as soon as the nuts are mature. Hickories, pecans and filberts will fall free of their hulls when mature and pressing on the hull of a black walnut will leave an indentation if the nut is mature. Delaying harvest will risk loss due to animals and discoloration of the shells and meats.

Once collected, the nuts need to be cleaned and cured. Hickories, pecans and filberts separate easily from their paper-like husks and the hull on butternuts does not need to be removed before drying as the hull on dry butternuts can be crumble off the dried nuts before cracking. Walnuts, especially black walnuts, are another story. They require considerably more work to remove the thick hull which encloses the nut.

Several methods can be used to remove the thick green husks from walnuts, but whatever method you use be sure and use rubber gloves as the husks contain a brown dye which will stain skin and clothing. Small quantities of walnuts can be placed on a hard surface such as a concrete floor and rolled over with a heavy object or trampled under foot. A rubber mallet or small hammer can also be used. Black walnut nuts are very tough and some gardeners place them in the driveway and drive over them with an automobile to break off the hull. After the hulls are cracked, they need to be removed from the nut completely. Failing to do so will result in slower drying and possible discoloring of the kernels.

Cleaning black walnuts consists of washing the nuts in a bucket of water. Only those nuts which sink should be saved as the nuts which float are unfilled. Roughly stirring the nuts will help to remove any pieces of hull that still cling to the nuts. When the nuts are clean, remove them from the pail and dry them in thin layers on the floor or on wire trays in a shaded, well-ventilated area for several weeks. Hickories, butternuts, pecans and filberts should also be dried in this way. During this curing process the nuts will loose the bitter or astringent flavor uncured nuts have.

When the nuts are dry they should be stored in a cool, slightly humid location, such as a garage or earth-floor cellar until ready to be cracked. Nuts can also be cracked and the kernels stored in the freezer. Properly cured, nuts or frozen kernels can be stored for a year or longer before they turn rancid.