Hickory trees can reach a height of 80 feet tall and develop a dense canopy as they mature, making them wonderful shade trees. Lush foliage and lovely fall colors make them a beautiful addition to any landscape, and as an added bonus, these attractive trees produce edible nuts. The hickory tree is also prized for its wood, which is used for many purposes, such as furniture making and wood flooring, as well as adding flavor to those hickory smoked meats so many enjoy. While growing, hickory trees may take a bit more time and patience than faster growing trees. They are strong, sturdy and long lasting trees once they have reached maturity and reach heights that can envelope even the tallest homes in a deep, cool oasis of shade.
Growing hickory trees is easiest done from seed, as their deep taproots can make transplanting young trees difficult, and Hickory seedling can be hard to find at the local garden center. Hickory nuts can be gathered in the fall as they drop from the trees. Test the gathered nuts for viability by tossing them into a bucket of water. Those that float are not likely to germinate, as they have probably been snacked on by insects. Set aside only the hickory nuts that sink to the bottom of the bucket for planting.
Soaking hickory nuts in water for approximately four days before planting is advisable and removing the hulls, but not the shells can make sprouting easier. Planting can be done in the fall for spring growth, either directly in the ground or in containers that are buried four to five inches beneath the ground, giving the Hickory nuts the period of cold dormancy that is required for successful germination. If using containers, be sure that there are good sized drain holes in the bottom to prevent flooding during heavy rains.
Hickory nuts can also be kept over the winter indoors for spring planting by placing them in damp soil inside a sealed container, then refrigerating them through the winter season. Just be sure that soil is just lightly dampened, not soaking wet, to avoid the growth of fungus or mold. Hickory nuts kept in this manner can be started in containers in the early spring to be transplanted in the garden later, or can be planted directly in the ground once the danger of frost has passed.
Planting is best done in a location that provides full sun, but hickory trees will tolerate light shade. Ideal soil for your Hickory trees is rich, well drained loam. Roots will develop first, often growing for weeks underground before there is any sign of life at the surface. Keep soil evenly moist during this period, but never soggy, as too much moisture can cause the hickory nuts or young roots to rot.
Newly planted hickory nuts will need some protection against squirrels and chipmunks, especially if put into the ground in the fall. Placing a piece of screen over the planting site can help prevent these creatures from digging the hickory nuts up for a snack. Young trees can be protected against rabbits, deer, and other wildlife by a wire cage. Mulching around the base of young trees is recommended to prevent competition from weeds for the nutrients, allowing them the best possible start.