Most northern Ohio farmers and outdoor types recognize the ordinary nut trees and shrubs.  They know shagbark and shellbark hickories, black walnuts, and maybe butternuts.  But did you know there are lots of other nut bearers that will live and thrive in our often chill climate?  John (Bud) Luers certainly does.

Bud lives on 26 acres of hilly land along Possum Run Road in southern Richland County, and since he’s retired, his time is mainly spent raising and working with nuts.  He must be good at it, since he’s current president of The Ohio Nut Growers Association, and has raised various nuts since 1987, often with blue ribbon results.  “It started as a hobby, but got way out of hand.” Bud said.  “Still, I really enjoy working with trees”

Just what does this nut expert raise?  His land has Persian (English) walnuts, for example, a fine, thin shelled nut with large meats that came from colder regions, and thus is more cold hardy.  It also has heart nuts, which came from Japan in the early 1800’s and are similar to butternuts, though somewhat heart shaped.  Then there are hazelnuts or filberts that grow very well in our area, and usually produce heavy crops, hicons, a cross between hickories and pecans, a far northern pecan that produces smaller nuts than its southern cousins, and buartnuts, a cross between butternuts and heart nuts.

There’s more.  He also has samples of hickory nuts, LOTS of black walnuts, butternuts, which are rare these days because they’re canker prone, and a cross between Chinese and Japanese chestnuts.  Bud keeps meticulous records of every one of his 350 main trees, but even with excellent records, the job can be mind boggling.  Because there are 110 different hickory cultivars alone, 17 varieties of heart nuts, and many types of other nut trees.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just a matter of planting nuts and watching them sprout and grow most times.  Luers grows two root stocks and grafts twigs and buds on them to produce what he hopes will be superior nuts.  He plants hundreds of black walnut trees, because their root stocks have deep taproots, are long lived, and will accept grafts from butternuts, heartnuts, buart nuts, and persian walnuts.  And also lots of pecans, because they’re fast growing and will take grafts from hickories and hicons.

If this is beginning to sound just too complex, it isn’t.  Readers can visit any library and find books on grafting, if they’d like to grow and experiment a little with nut trees on their own property, and it’s a simple process.  Bud uses primarily a side bark graft, splice graft, and four flap graft, does his work mostly in May and June, and hopes for 30 percent success on the grafts.  “Weather decides, though.” he said.  “Last year we had a wet spring and I got only four or five takes on the grafts.  June was drier and I had about 30 that month.”

Those who are really interested in growing their own nut trees and want to enjoy tasty pecans, huge hickory nuts, thin shelled black walnuts, and other unusual types won’t find much in commercial catalogs.  Instead, you’ll need to thumb through the pages of such growers as the Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery, in Upton, KY.  They have over 175 varieties of already grafted nut trees.

But once you have a seedling or two, they nearly take care of themselves.  Bud plants his about 45 feet apart in ordinary soil, adds no fertilizer or water unless it’s a dry time, and does minimum pruning.  Mostly, they take care of themselves and grow with little help. 

This 69 year old nut expert loves to talk about his trees and has a vast store of lore about them.  “Pecans down south grow heavy crops one year and few the next,” he said, “because producing a lot stresses the trees and they need a year to rest.  So growers there shake the trees at the proper time each year and remove about half the nuts.  Then there’s less stress and they can get a yearly crop instead of years of feast or famine.  Black walnuts are the same, and you could probably do the same with younger trees, at least.”

Bud doesn’t sell trees, but he’s always happy to talk to interested folk, and he’s developed techniques for cracking nuts with little effort, picking them up with even less effort, and is a wellspring of advice on all sorts of nuts.  “If your readers have questions, they can E-mail me at  I’m always happy to talk.

(Originally published December 2004 – Note Past President Bud Luers is now a Trustee 2009-2013 of ONGA) 

Comments are closed.