How to Collect and Prepare Walnuts for Planting

raw walnut
Raw walnut. (Maryam Hameed/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Now is the time to collect walnut and butternut seeds for planting this fall if you know how to identify them. Remember, after harvesting seeds, keep them moist for the entire time you store them - never let them dry out! They can also be planted the following spring.

Husk or No Husk

In theory, you can plant the seed with the husk. That is what nature does and seems to work okay. Still, you would be better served if you prepare the seed and husk or completely remove the hull. You can pour boiling water over the husks and let them soak overnight. Plant the soaked hull and seed the next day.


Removing the husk increases the germination rate of walnut and butternut seeds but can become a big job if you have a large volume. There are mechanical hullers you can rent or purchase. The best way to de-hull small seed batches is to refrigerate in plastic bags for two or three weeks and until the husk turns black. The hull will wash off with a water hose under high pressure. Extended storage can drop the germination percentage if not done correctly so try to plant the seeds this fall (preferably the day after hulling).

Preparing Seeds

Most experts agree that the seeds will do just fine without scarification. Some say that the natural temperature cycle through the winter gives the seed the cold it needs but others recommend refrigeration for 3 months and planting in the spring (stratification).


Plant the nuts in an open area at a depth of one to two times their thickness. Mulching will help as you do not want the seed to freeze. Chicken wire over the planted seeds will deter digging rodents.