Those of us who grew up with a black walnut tree on the place know what it means to go to school with yellowish green fingers after freeing those nuts from the husks. At my grandparents’ farm, we’d gather the fallen walnuts in a coal scuttle, pile them in the driveway and let visitors’ cars and trucks travel over them for a few weeks before we recollected the freed nuts into buckets and stored them in the garage.
During the winter months, my grandmother would take breaks from her quilting to harvest the nutmeats with a bobby pen or nail, and by spring we’d have a walnut cake at least once a week, only occasionally having the deal with shock of biting into a piece of shell.
One thing about the walnut tree, though, is that it was nowhere near the garden. Black walnut toxicity has been the diagnosis on several garden calls I’ve fielded over the last ten years. Tomatoes are usually the victim, although any plant in the Nightshade Family may succumb.
One of the sites where we’ll be helping with a community garden this year is blessed with black walnuts. The spot where the garden was last year was far enough away from root systems to not see any ill effects, but as we expand that growing space in 2014, we’re going to have to be mindful of those portions of the garden where we’re creeping too close to a tree.
Fortunately, there’s a list of garden crops not susceptible to juglone, the toxin of concern.