This year has been a good year for conkers, as well as most other fruits and nuts, when we visited our local Horse Chestnut trees in October there was an abundance of spikey green shells hanging on tightly in the chilly north easterly wind, we collected about thirty beautiful, shiny brown nuggets that had fallen on the ground, enough for Thomas to play conkers with and some to plant as well.
The first record of the game of conkers is from the Isle of Wight in 1848, they originally played with snail shells! Click here to learn how to play the game of conkers.
Horse Chestnut trees were introduced from the Balkans in the late 16th Century, in the UK we have over two million trees, even though this year has been a good year for conkers the Horse Chestnut tree is under threat.
Nearly a million of our trees are infected by the tiny invasive moth larvae, known as the horse chestnut leaf miner, they burrow in the leaves which then turn brown, reducing the amount of food that the tree can absorb through photosynthesis, as well as the threat from the leaf minor another serious disease called bleeding canker is spreading too and can cause the death of the tree.
The Horse Chestnut Tree is spectacular throughout the year and one of our national treasures, if you want to help maintain the poulation why not plant some of your spare conkers.
How to grow your Horse Chestnut trees
- Place your conkers in a container of water, discard the ones that float these have dried out.
- Using only the conkers that sink, plant them about 2cm deep individually in pots of soil/compost, between now and the end of November.
- Water well and place in a sheltered spot outside.
- Protect the pots from predators i.e. squirrels, mice etc. and from hard frosts, a cold frame is ideal, keep checking them to see if they need watering, but don’t overwater.
- The conkers will need to go through a period of cold temperatures to encourage them to germinate in the spring.
- Keep your young trees watered and re-pot as they grow bigger.
- Ask the landowners permission before you plant your new trees into the big wide world, they can grow very large.
We already have two healthy young trees waiting for a new home.