One of the most popular plants in the southeastern United States is the pecan tree. Pecans are abundant there, with over 500 different types of pecans. Some are bred to survive the sweltering heat of the south while others can survive the winters in the central United States.
While pecan trees are forest trees, they can be grown at home, especially if you have space for them. You may be interested in planting pecan trees to build your own pecan tree grove. You might just be interested in one so you can harvest and enjoy the delicious buttery pecan.
Whatever your reason, know you can grow pecans varieties at home. As long as you give the tree what it needs, you will grow an annual crop of pecans that will satisfy hunger year after year. Grow one tree or many trees … whatever is best for your situation!
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Brief instructions for care
The pecan tree is a beautiful hardwood tree with delicious nuts. Source: QuesterMark
|Common name (s)||Pecan, pecan tree|
|Scientific name||Carya illinoinensis|
|Days to harvest||150 days from fruit to harvest|
|water||2 inches per week|
|floor||Average, moist, well drained|
|fertilizer||Soak the soil once or twice a year|
|Pests||Squirrels, pecan weevils, yellow aphids, ravens / crows|
|Diseases||Pecan scab, root-knot nematode|
All about pecan trees
A small cluster of unripe pecans surrounded by foliage. Source: Lamanyana
The pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) is a deciduous tree that is native to the Mississippi River Valley in the southern United States and northern Mexico. The word "pecan" is Algonquin and refers to the nuts found in hickory, walnut, and pecan trees. In the late 1800s, colonists grew pecan trees for commercial production.
Pecan trees are tall, measuring up to 75 feet in size, and growing up to 130 feet tall. They have a trunk diameter of up to 7 feet. The pinnate pecan leaves grow alternately on branches. Each leaf is 2 to 4 inches long and about an inch wide. The tree grows a long tap root with feeder roots that extend deeper than 10 feet below the ground.
Trees grow pecans after they have had at least 5 years to mature. Sometimes they take 7 years. Then they grow pecans annually between June and September, which are harvested between October and December. In a process called alternating storage, pecan trees produce more in alternate years. When there are fewer pecans, wildlife can eat them before humans can get them.
The "nut" of the pecan is a stone fruit – a fruit that is surrounded by a hard shell. It has a tough, green outer peel that opens as the fruit dries, exposing the striped black-brown inner peel. Inside are the delicious nuts used in making pecan tart, candied pecans, and pecan-crusted meat.
Pecans cross-pollinate through male and female flowers growing on the same tree. Female flowers will develop on the new growth of a pecan tree, while male flowers will bloom on branches from recent years. Depending on the type of tree, female or male flowers ripen first. Then they are pollinated by the wind and bees. For best results and the best fruiting trees, it is recommended that you grow more than one tree in an area.
You can find pecans at native nurseries in the southern United States or through online retailers. Plant both bare-root and container-grown trees in late winter through early spring. Don't plant them in summer as the soil will get too warm and the roots will burn. For a bare-root planting, keep a minimum distance of 18 m and dig a planting hole that is about twice wider than the root ball. Provide well-drained soil for each tree. Keep trees planted wide. Let the top layer of soil sit in a small mound above the planting hole.
When you take the tree out of the nursery pot, make sure that the roots are not connected. Use a handsaw to remove the lower part of the planting, if these are tied, then carefully cut crosswise into the soil mass at the base so that the taproot can be planted directly in the ground. Carefully arrange the roots in the planting hole and start filling them with water until the hole is half full. Then add soil. Pour the young pecan trees.
For a container grown pecan, follow the same prep process for loosening the roots and straightening the taproot. Find a container large enough to hold the taproot and forage roots. To ensure proper growth in both container and bare-root trees, paint the trunk with white latex paint. This keeps squirrels, birds, and cold damage away that could reduce nut production in later years. Add a 3-inch layer of pine needle or wood chip mulch to keep the mulch away from the diameter of the trunk.
A pecan grove can be both visually stunning and productive. Source: m3pic
With the right patience and care, you will be planting trees and have mature trees in about 5 to 7 years. Let's cover some of the basics to help you grow a full grown pecan tree that produces delicious pecan fruits.
Sun and temperature
Pecan trees enjoy full sun with about 6 to 8 hours of full, direct light per day. Pecans are known in USDA Zones 5 through 9 and prefer moderate to warm temperatures. They appreciate moderately cool winters at 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Established trees can withstand 20 degrees and sometimes up to 0 degrees. A fully grown tree has an easier time withstanding frost and winter storms. Young trees are more prone to extremes and can die in the harsh cold. You need extra protection when temperatures drop below 40 degrees. Hot summers with high humidity are also preferred. To protect young trees from the cold, wrap the log with a blanket of frost or cardboard tied with tape. Chicken wire stuffed with dry leaves will also work. Some experts recommend wrapping fairy lights around the cover for extra warmth. Frost damage below their preferred range results in loss of flowers and fruit.
Water and moisture
Give your new trees at least 10 to 15 gallons of water per week for proper tree growth. Water in the morning and provide this via drip irrigation or watering tubes that are placed in a wide ring around the trunk. Do not pour over it, as constantly wet soil leads to rot in the root system. The soil moisture should dry between watering. Give old trees more water in summer so they can carry nuts. Do not water during the rest period (winter) if there is high moisture.
Pecan trees can tolerate many different types of soil. One thing they value is having adequate soil moisture retention. In container cultures, adding peat moss or another water-storing material helps. Because of this, average potting soil is a great addition to your planting hole. The best pH range for these trees is between 6.5 and 7.0. Well-drained soil is also a must.
If you have large trees, fertilize twice a year to aid growth and pollination. Pecan trees like a small amount of fertilizer applied once in the second year of growth – the year after they are planted. A balanced fertilizer in granular or liquid form should be soaked in the soil in June just before the fruit starts to develop. Special fertilizers that contain the required micronutrients have been developed for pecan trees. Alternatively, a zinc sulfate powder can be applied along with your regular choice at the time of fertilization on young and adult trees as they need zinc to develop properly. Look for a balanced fertilizer with a 10-10-10 NPK. Established trees are fertilized in March and then again in June.
Pecan trees, like most trees, thrive best when properly pruned for the first five years. When you first plant your tree, cut back the top third of the branches. In the first growing season, cut off all but one of the leading branches. Leading branches are usually those that are in line with the trunk. Prune established trees in late winter before spring buds form. Remove branches that are sloped more than 45 degrees upwards. You can prune in summer, but only if necessary. The summer pruning invites diseases and pests into the pruning areas. Cutting back in winter reduces pest pressure.
The easiest way to multiply pecan trees is by grafting them. They can also be grown from seeds, like other trees that produce stone fruits. You can graft branches onto other varieties, but it is not strictly necessary. Some grafts can help improve the quality and production of the nut. Trees grown from seed are an exact clone of the tree from the same family.
There are many different ways to refine a pecan, but we're only going to cover bark refinement here. Remove a healthy branch (about 2.5 cm trunk diameter) with a clean cut with a sharp knife. Remove the bark from the lower end of the branch and cut the base at an angle. Then place the cut piece under the bark of the rhizome. Hammer it in and wrap it up. New buds should form in 4 to 6 weeks.
You can easily remove a pecan seedling from the ground under your tree and transplant it into a starter pot. Maintain and repot as needed, then transplant.
Harvest and storage
Pecans hang heavily on the tree just before ripening. Source: nodigio
Harvesting operations are the best part of growing pecan. Those in the pecan industry have methods for harvesting many pecan trees. But let's talk about harvest from pecan production at home.
Pecans drop nuts in the fall just before their leaves fall. You catch the eye with the green peel, and while it dries it jumps up. The inner mother and her outer coat are then exposed. As a result, harvesting pecans is all about finding the right pecans on the ground. You can poke them off the tree too, but you will find that it is much more difficult to do, especially when you compete with height and proximity to squirrels, crows, and ravens.
Collect undamaged and recently dropped pecans. Peel all nuts with the remaining shells. If the peel doesn't come off easily, it is likely that ripening has not yet started. After you've collected the pecans, harden them in a place with good air circulation and little light. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet or plastic lid. Put a small fan on them and stir them once a day. Ripe pecans can easily be peeled off their inner shell.
One way to extend the shelf life of pecans is to put them in a jar or plastic freezer bag in the refrigerator or freezer. Unshelled pecans will keep for 2 or more years this way. Peeled will last 1 year or more. They can be kept in an airtight container nearby on a counter for a few months. Always taste the freshness of your pecans before adding them to any dish.
Pecans are deciduous and lose their leaves in autumn. Source: kingofthebigmacs
Pecans are so tasty that you probably won't be the only one interested in the fruit. Let's discuss a few problems and "friends" you may face while growing them.
If you seriously damaged a pecan tree's root system while planting, the young tree could Difficulty finding nutrients. Broken roots can lead to too incorrect moisture absorption also causing the tree to wither. One way to make sure the tree is taking in the correct nutrient levels is to do a leaf analysis. Taking leaf samples over time will help you determine the type of nutrient deficiency (if any) and how to get rid of it. Leaf analysis can be done through your local agricultural advisory office.
When you plant your tree in one place without enough sun, or in a place where Moisture does not run off correct, various problems can arise and the potential for fungal attack is higher. Transplanting can help on young trees, while older trees may need the help of an arborist.
squirrel and Birds like ravens and crows sometimes eating your pecans before you can reach them, and squirrels can do a lot of damage to a pecan tree in a short amount of time. In an established tree, this isn't a huge problem and, in the worst case scenario, you may only be able to collect pecans in more plentiful seasons. Mothballs in mesh bags hung from branches can keep them away. Electronic sound deterrent works too, but be sure to check the batteries.
Weevils are a problem for pecan production. They dig into the nutshell with their little proboscis and eat the meat in it. Useful nematodes attached to the base of the tree stop weevils at the larval stage and prevent them from even maturing into search for nuts. Apply them between September and December while the weevil larvae hibernate. There are also anti-fungal pesticides that can be applied weekly to the base of the tree. These attack plant pest larvae.
Yellow aphids feed on the juice of pecan leaves and tree material. They spread honeydew in a yellow film around pecan plantations. You will first notice this in the spring when they are most active. You can introduce parasitic wasps and ladybugs to consume. You can also plant catch crops like alfalfa and vetch to scare them off. Insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, and neem oil can be used to kill them.
Root node nematodes are parasites that cause galls and knots on roots. They can easily be treated with beneficial nematodes that you may have used to control weevils.
Pecan scab is known among pecan growers. It is a fungal disease that looks like rot that spreads along pecan stone fruits. It can defoliate the tree and make pecans much smaller than they would be without the disease. There is no getting rid of pecan scab, just managing it. There are many varieties that have been bred to be resistant to scab. Amling, Gafford and Syrup Mill are some varieties with excellent scab resistance. Otherwise, you'll keep your orchard free of debris and you won't have so much scab that you can't produce fruit.
frequently asked Questions
This young pecan tree is grafted onto another rhizome. Source: nodigio
Q: How long does it take for a pecan tree to bear fruit?
A: It takes 5 to 7 years for a tree to mature, and then about 5 months from flowering to fruit.
Q: Are pecan trees difficult to grow?
Answer: no! They are happy almost everywhere in their zones.
Q: Do you need two pecan trees to get nuts?
A: Cross-pollination only occurs on one tree, but when this process occurs between two different trees, better fruit will be produced.
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