The Essential Guide to Everything you Need to Know about Growing Walnuts – Juglans regia

Paul Alfrey from the Balkan Ecology Project covers the hows and whys of growing Walnuts – Juglans regia –

If I were to tell you of an apocalypse proof asset that is 100% guaranteed to increase in value, both in the short (3 yrs) and long term (300 yrs), will contribute to your good health, provides aesthetic pleasure to your surroundings, has the potential to replicate itself exponentially and has parts that can be dipped into smooth melted dark chocolate, covered in cocoa powder and eaten, surely you’ll be chuffed to learn that I’m referring to none other than Juglans regia – The Walnut tree.

The essential guide to everything you need to know to grow walnuts
The essential guide to everything you need to know to grow walnuts

At the moment I’m struggling to think of a better thing to do than to plant a walnut tree, other than to plant more than one walnut tree:) So here I present the Essential Guide to Everything you Need to Know about Walnuts.

During this article we’ll be focusing on the Persian Walnut – Juglans regia first providing an overview of the plant followed by advice on where to plant, how to care for, uses of walnuts and a look at some good companions plants for walnuts. We’ll also profile three productive and disease resistant Walnut cultivars that we are offering from our forest garden plant nursery.


Juglans regia is known by several common names including Persian walnut, common walnut, English walnut, Carpathian walnut and Madeira nut. The natural range of this plant is from the Carpathian mountains through the middle east and into the Himalayas.

The Essential Guide to Everything you Need to Know about Growing Walnuts - Juglans regia 02


Walnuts are fast growing trees that develop broad canopies reaching 18 m width and 30 m in height. It is a light-demanding species, requiring full sun to grow well.

A walnut compound leaf.   photo from -
A walnut compound leaf.
photo from –

The buds awaken from winter dormancy in mid April – late May (depending on cultivar) and leaf fall occurs in early November. The large compound leaves give off a lemon /lime scent particularly when crushed. The flowers open before or around the same time as the leaves and you can find both male and female flowers on the plant (monoecious). The male flowers are slender catkins and the female flowers are smaller often found on the tips of the branches. Pollination is carried out by the wind.

Growing Range

Walnuts from the middle east and the Persian strains, are hardy to zone 5 (-23 °C) while the Carpathian strains can withstand temperatures as low as -32 °C (zone 4). You can’t grow these plants in the lower latitude areas without at least 500-1500 hrs per year of temperatures below 7 °C. At high latitude climate the young shoots and flowers are susceptible to frost damage in the spring, and early frosts in the autumn can cause damage to new shoots.


Walnuts have both male and female flower parts on the same tree (monoecious). The pollen is shed from the male flowers and should settle on the females flowers. The pollen is physically very small and light and can travel quite some distance. Studies have shown in certain orchards that wind blown pollen came from trees over a mile away.

Juglans regia - Female and Male Flowers
Juglans regia – Female and Male Flowers

If the pollen from the male flower settles on the female flower at the point that they are receptive, fertilisation is likely to occur and the female flower will go on to develop into nuts. The time of pollen shedding from the male flower does not always overlap well with the time of female flower receptivity to pollen. This condition is referred to as dichogamy. To overcome this problem growers can select another walnut cultivar (a pollinator) the male flowers of which open at the same time as the female flowers from the main cultivar. The pollinator should be situated upwind from the main crop. If you have other walnuts upwind from your site you should not have problems with this.

Nearly all commercial orchards are co-planted with a pollinator variety to ensure the main crop gets enough pollen to set nuts. The recommendations for optimal pollination in an orchard environment is to plant one row of pollinators for every 8 main crop rows and to plant the row of pollinators upwind.

In some cultivars Walnut fruits form on the tips of the new seasons growth on other cultivars the fruit is formed on the lateral shoots.

Lateral Bearers

Lateral bearing cultivars bear fruits on lateral buds of shoots and are generally of higher productivity than terminal and intermediate bearers due to the larger number of fruit buds on these plants.

Terminal/Tip Bearers

Terminal bearing cultivars bear fruits on the tips of the shoots.

Tip bearing cultivar from a tree at our market garden site
Tip bearing cultivar from a tree at our market garden site


Walnut trees commonly reproduce in the wild and are very easy to grow from seed. A tree grown from seed will start to produce fruit in 8 -12 yrs, it’s not certain that it will share the characteristics of the parent trees. Walnut cultivars are grafted and will start to fruit in the fifth year. Seeing as most cultivars are 2 yrs old when you buy them, the trees can start to bear fruit on the 3rd year after planting. (for expected yields see below)

Where to Plant

Location – The best locations for walnut trees are sunny, relatively sheltered sites. Frost pockets should be avoided.

Soil – The ideal soil is a deep, fertile, well drained loam with a pH between 6 and 7 (4.3 – 8.3 tolerated), although I’ve seen magnificent specimens growing in heavy clay on the river banks and trees tolerating a wide range of soil conditions.

Inhibitors – Walnuts produce a growth inhibitor – juglone – that has a detrimental effect on some species of plants growing nearby (negative allelopathy). Experimental studies have shown that juglone can inhibit plant respiration, depriving sensitive plants of needed energy and reducing the plants ability to uptake water and nutrients. There are many plants that do not seem to be affected by juglone (see below)

Comfrey 'Bocking 14' growing in the shade of a 20 year old Walnut
Comfrey ‘Bocking 14’ growing in the shade of a 20 year old Walnut

Walnut Pollination – When planting your walnut it’s important to consider a pollination partner if you would like to maximise your yields. (see above)

Fertility, Irrigation and Care

Fertility – It’s advisable to not add compost to the roots of walnuts when planting out and to add just a little top dressing compost to your newly planted trees. In the 2nd year, adding around 10 L of compost to the base of the tree in the spring will meet the plants growing nitrogen (N) demands. Too much N makes the trees more susceptible to Walnut Blight.

Irrigation – Should not be necessary unless rainfall is below 600 mm per year and is uneven in distribution throughout the year. In my climate in South-East Europe, Bulgaria I give my young trees 20 L once every two weeks during the summer months. Never use a sprinkler or hose to water and avoid splashing water onto the leaves as this will promote the development of Walnut Blight.

Weeding – Its important to keep the trees free from weeds whilst they establish as young trees are intolerant of competition especially from grass. Mulching the trees annually with card and straw will work well but take care to keep the collar free from mulch to prevent it from rotting.

Potential Problems

Sunburn: can occur in excessive summer heat (38C) and the kernels can shrivel and darken. This is more so of a problem if the tree is under moisture stress.

Cold injury: Young trees are very susceptible to frost damage. Flowers can be destroyed in early frosts so it’s important to select late flowering cultivars if your planting site experiences early frosts.

Insect/Pest: Codling moth (Cydia pomonella), Navel orangeworm (Amyelois transitella), Walnut husk fly (Rhagoletis completa), aphids, scales and mites; nematodes (Pratylenchus vulnus)

Disease: Blight (Xanthomonas campestris); blackline (cherry leaf roll virus); root and crown rots (Phytophthora spp., Armillaria mellea); deep bark canker (Erwinia rubrifaciens); crown gall (Agrobacterium tumefaciens).

Walnut Blight on our garden trees following an unusually wet spring and summer of 2013
Walnut Blight on our garden trees following an unusually wet spring and summer of 2013

Walnut uses

Beyond the nutritious delicious nuts the other parts of the Walnut plant can be used for a variety of purposes.

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Timber – The timber is very stable, hardly warps at all and after proper seasoning swells very little. The wood is straight grained, quite durable, slightly coarse (silky) in texture so easily held, strong, of medium density and can withstand considerable shock. It is easy to work and holds metal parts with little wear or risk of splitting. The heartwood is mottled with brown, chocolate, black and light purple colours intermingled. Some of the most attractive wood comes from the root crown area from which fine burr walnut veneers can be obtained.

Nuts – Nuts can be eaten raw, salted or pickled. Nuts must have an oil content of at least 50% to store successfully, nuts with 30 – 50% oil content have a higher moisture level and tend to shrivel in storage, so must be eaten immediately or preserved,

Oil – Can be pressed from the ripe nuts (sometimes over 50% by weight of kernels). The oil can be used raw, for cooking or as a butter substitute.

Leaves – Leaves can be used to make a wine.

Sap – The sap of the tree is edible, in the same way as that of the sugarmaple.

Medicinal uses – Several parts of the tree have medicinal uses. The leaves and bark have alterative, laxative, astringent and detergent properties, and are used for the treatment of skin diseases; in addition the bark is a purgative. Leaves should be picked in June or July in fine weather, and dried quickly in a shady, warm, well ventilated place.

-The juice of the green husks, boiled with honey, is a good gargle for sore throats.

-The oil from nuts can be used for colic and skin diseases.

-The husks, shells and peel are sudorific, especially when green.

Other uses – The green husks can be boiled to produce a dark yellow dye; the leaves contain a brown dye used on wool and to stain skin.

The oil has been used for making varnishes, polishing wood, in soaps and as a lamp oil.

The leaves have insect repellent properties; in former times horses were rested underneath walnut trees to relieve them from insect irritation.

Walnuts uses section from Martin Crawford’s Agroforestry News Volume 1 Number 1 – Persian Walnuts

Walnut Yields

Walnuts grown from seed may not provide any nuts until they reach sexual maturity at 10 – 13 years of age. Grafted cultivars generally start to fruit in their 5th year. Most grafted cultivars are 2 yrs old so you can expect to receive the first crops in the 3rd year after planting. Below is a table showing the estimated yields of a walnut tree over time.

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Companion Plants for Walnuts

Walnuts, along with hickories, produce the chemical juglone, which is exuded from all parts of the plant. This chemical can inhibit the growth rate of nearby plants, a phenomenon known as negative alleopathy. This combined with the heavy water demands of larger trees and the deep shade cast in high summer presents challenges to effective companion planting but much can be grown in the under story during the first 15 – 20 years

20 yr old Walnut in our Garden  with Sambucus nigra, Aronia melanocarpa and Pyrus cv. doing very well
20 yr old Walnut in our Garden with Sambucus nigra, Aronia melanocarpa and Pyrus cv. doing very well

Juglone Toleranace

Here’s alist of plants that have been observed to grow well under walnuts and are considered tolerant to Juglone. Bear in mind that few plants have been experimentally tested for sensitivity to juglone.

The plants highlighted in green are species I have personally observed growing seemingly unhindered in and around the under story of Juglans regia

Walnuts from our Gardens
Walnuts from our Gardens

Many factors affect sensitivity, including level of contact, health of the plant, soil environment, and the overall site conditions. Aside from juglone, a mature walnut will cast a very heavy shade and young sun demanding plants will not survive in these conditions. The list provided here is strictly a guide and should not be considered complete or definitive.

Plant Tolerance to Juglone : Juglone Tolerant Plants

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If you have experience of plants growing well under and around a Juglone producing plant that are not on this list, please share in the comments section below.

Walnut Cultivars – Hardy and Resistant to Major Pest and Diseases

Below you can find profiles of some Bulgarian cultivars that we have on offer at our Bio-nursery. These cultivars are high yielding and resistant to common walnut diseases.

We are currently offering these cultivars at ​​ €22 per tree with 10% discount for orders over 10 trees. Delivery all other Europe

For other disease resistant walnut cultivars see Agroforestry Research Trust.

Walnut cultivars for Permaculture and Forest Gardens
Walnut cultivars for Permaculture and Forest Gardens

Cultivar – ‘Izvor 10’

•Fruiting – The fruit forms on lateral buds and ripen around mid September. Excellent tasting oblong nuts with a thin shell. The nuts weigh around 10 g have a high fat content – 55.7%.
•Disease Resistance – Excellent resistance to Walnut anthracnose and Walnut blight
•Form – The tree forms a broad, relatively thin crown
•Hardiness – A very hardy cultivar tolerating temperatures down to -25 – 30 ºС
•Flowering Period – Late

Cultivar – ‘Sheinovo’

•Fruiting – The fruit forms on the tips and ripen around mid September. Excellent tasting nuts that are easy to remove from the thin shell. The nuts weigh around 12 -13 g and have a high fat content – 71.4% .
•Disease Resistance – Good resistance to Walnut anthracnose and Walnut blight
•Form – The tree is vigorous with a wide spread crown
•Hardiness – A hardy cultivar tolerating temperatures down to -24 ºС
•Flowering Period – Mid – Late

Cultivar – ‘Dryanovo’

•Fruiting – Fruits for on the tips of branches and ripen to very large 14 – 18 g round nuts. The fat content is 67.39%.
•Disease Resistance – Very resistant to anthracnose, though very susceptible to blight.
•Form – The tree is vigorous with dome shaped crown
•Hardiness – A hardy cultivar tolerating temperatures down to -24 ºС
•Flowering Period – Mid – Late

To order some walnut cultivars for delivery this winter contact us at [email protected] or via the website;

Paul Alfrey

Hi I'm Paul, Originally from the UK I moved over to Bulgaria with my family 12 years ago and set up the Balkan Ecology Project. Prior to that, I worked as a freelance Arborist in the UK for 15 years. Balkan Ecology Project is a family project run by myself, Sophie and our two boys Dylan and Archie, and supported by the amazing volunteers we have hosted here over the years. We aim to develop and promote practices that provide nutritious affordable food while enhancing biodiversity and work to achieve this by: - Researching, designing and implementing systems on the ground - Providing working examples of our designs at our sites open for the public to visit - Providing quality education and training to aspiring growers and landscapers - Providing consultancy and design for landowners and farmers across Europe - Practicing an open source policy, whereby we disseminate our results freely and share all aspects of our work - Growing, selling and promoting the use of plants and plant communities that have high ecological and nutritional value Our activities currently include: Biological Plant Nursery, Educational Courses, Local Land Stewardship, Polyculture Research, Market Gardening​, and Consultancy and Design.


  1. Don’t forget that walnuts are one of the best foods for brain function, and have prostate protective functions – proven to reduce prostate cancer.
    Don’t listen to the FDA – tons of proof about the phytochemical benefits of various foods we grow, but the corporate control of “govt” agencies prevents the dispersal of truth so rich people can get richer on the ignorance they cultivate.

  2. What about walnut toxicity, are there guild plants that can live in the under story? Mine is about 20 years old and I’ve been mulching beneath it regularly, but understand that they are very inhospitable to other plants, both in shade density and leaf debris..

  3. Our last house had a large Black Walnut tree in the backyard. I had a very large black raspberry patch near the tree which did very well. A few other plants that seemed to do well or be unaffected by the Juglone, included a patch of Mayapples that I planted directly under the Walnut and a bird-planted Mulberry that was growing directly under the drip-line.

  4. Just planted a Black Walnut this Spring ,and its shooting new growth out now ….Will plant another Pollinator Walnut next year ….Does anyone know if Chestnuts can be grown nearby …or how far away would be viable ??? Any comments welcome

  5. Hello and thank you for all the information. I got a Walnut tree that grew from seed in Germany and now lives in the Western Cape, South Africa. It survived 4 hot summers here already but still lives in a pot in a wind sheltered and shady corner of the house. Next year I would like to plant it out but I am concerned the leaves will burn in the harsh sun. Your article said how the trees do not like frost but how heat resistant are they?! Our climate is mild but we do get frost in winter and have dry hot summers. We have mainly sandy soils here.The tree will always be watered well! Thanks for any comment and suggestions!

    1. M climate is similar to yours;East Coast NZ. But our soil is river silt. The walnuts fruit well. I have mixed varieties, codling moth is a continual issue. We have apple orchards all around. You learn to live with the moths, but we do burn all old nuts and keep the base of the tree clean.

  6. I grew up with several walnut trees around. Grape hyacinths (Muscari), dandelions, and our lawn did very well under the canopy. Our vegetable garden, apple and pear trees were also near the drip lines of the walnut trees and we didn’t really have issues with those.

  7. Hi there!
    I live in South Africa in Western Cape along the coast. I would like to grow walnut trees and see how profitable they are. Already have Pecan nuts, Chestnuts, and Macadamia. Are there specific strains of Walnut more suited to South Africa? And where would I source ready grated trees ?
    Kind regards,

  8. I have a black walnut tree in the front yard and another one that is about 5 years old. Their was over 1500 walnuts on my tree last summer and they sure are fun to eat. Four or five years ago we had a spring frost and only about 250 good nuts for that season. I want to find out if any parts of the nut shell and waste can be used for some kind of fertilizer for the lawn or tree. Also i have been mulching the leaves for the yard and it seems to work well.

  9. Good day. Is there a place in South Africa where i can order/ buy some of your walnut trees?

  10. Do walnut trees sometimes stop producing for long periods of time? the reason i ask, I have a large mature tree in my front yard (old farm house) i have lived here for 12 years and its always just been a regular tree. this year it is full of walnuts? from everything i have looked at on line it s definitely an English walnut

  11. Hi Paul,

    Many thanks for your post and it is very informative.

    I am also from the UK and now located in Romania. My girlfriend inherited land from her departed father together with about 100 walnut trees, now aged about 5years from the point of planting.

    They have started to produce a few nuts this year but for some reason most succumbed to disease. Unfortunately there is very little advice from friends and we never really had knowledge transfer before inheritance. I am desperately looking for some guidance from someone who has some expertise in the field.

    The leaves started to curl and drop mid July …..we had unusually large amount of rains up to June, so water shortage can’t be an excuse. We applied approximately three large mugs of NPK 16.16.16 in April, as recommended by a tree expert but I don’t think his knowledge on walnuts can’t be relied upon. Nevertheless, his advice was taken in good faith.

    The early leaves dropping also occured last year (2018) too but we assumed it was due to acid rain but as it happened this year, I think there is an ongoing problem.

    I have taken some photos of affected plants in early September for better explanation…..wonder if you would be happy to guide me highlighting what I could do to improve the condition of the stock?

    Many thanks and I am happy to hear from any other person if Paul can’t assist me directly.

    Kindest regards

  12. Good day, Going through the list of companion plants it seems to be a rather comprehensive list. The fact that a Wallnut tree has a allelopathic effect on many species makes me wonder how allelopathic the Wallnut realy is if so many species can accompany a wallnut. Unfortunately I do not have the time to do these experiments.
    The list above have many species printed in black and fewer in green, what would the difference be?
    Best to all the permies!

  13. Dude I can’t believe how much great information you are leaving up here. Your contribution to Permaculture learning is huge! Thanks so much.

  14. Hi Paul,
    Thank you for this information about the walnut tree. I am in Portugal for a while and the neighbours tree has cast it’s yield into this garden, so I have now potted up 10 saplings before the summer sun kills them off. If this huge tree of next door is a cultivar will these saplings ever produce any walnuts? Also how many different types of walnut tree are there ? and is it easy to tell the difference?
    Again many thanks for your article.

  15. We have 3 regular size walnut trees and 1 very large walnut that produces jumbo walnuts. There are so many and would require a staff/team to harvest them all. I would have to say close to 400 lbs 😰🥵. My husband and I are up to our neck in walnuts right now. Should I sell them? I don’t know what to do with them all.

  16. It’s a damn detailed article about walnuts from A to Z. I enjoyed reading each and every line of what you wrote. Thank you so much. In the town I grew up we had huge walnut trees that were over 40-50 years old. Today these types of walnuts are not popular and not in demand anymore. More preferably ones are short ones, easy to grow and fast to harvest.

  17. Hi Paul, I am thinking to plant a Bio orchard of wallnuts. What is the size of the cannopy for an adult wallnut tree without prunning?

    Thanks in advance

  18. Hi please can you help me to help my 7 year old walnut tree. Should it go or can it stay??
    it is being blamed for spreading its roots under our patio and now we have a broken water pipe (flooding the pump house to the pool, Loads of money)
    We have been advised to take the tree out by some but told to keep it by others . I dont know what to do for the best.

  19. Many thanks for all this precious information and congratulations on your project!

    I have taken on (without asking permission) a one-woman project of saving the trees along 2 km of public bike path in France that are being smothered by huge, old-growth wild clematis aka Traveller’s Joy. Among the saved trees are five full-grown walnut trees, but I have never seen them with any fruit to speak of. I am now hopeful, having read your article, that freeing them from vines that inhibit sun and pollination, may help them be more productive.

  20. You can read about plenteous english walnut in North Ukraine/Kharkov City on blog Shugin Leonid: “Бокоплідні горіхи Шугіна” (find in G-le search). From 2007 year this varieties participate in state program of industrial plantations of low-growing walnuts

  21. Thank you for taking the time and care to produce this article. A great help.
    I moved from the UK to Nova Scotia Canada and have 20 acres to play on. I’m planting two juglans regia in the same area. I am or have already planted or am now planting black walnut, heartnut, pecan, a little grove of hazelnut fruit trees and white and red oak. Though it takes time to rice out the ground flesh of the acorn the final flour is high in nutrition and easy to store its a must, it’s said by some to have contributed to up to 60% of the winter diet of some First Nation tribes in North America. Along with growing a variety of medicinal mushrooms.
    Thanks again!

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