The pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) hails from the Americas and is native to much of the southern United States. The trees are grown for ornamental purposes because of their shady foliage, and also for their nutrient-rich nuts. Several management strategies and tips can help you grow a bountiful and healthy pecan tree that can provide you with years of enjoyment.
Pecan trees are very hardy and can tolerate varying levels of soil quality but need very well-drained soil for the fastest growth and most bountiful nut production. The University of Florida recommends planting pecans on the top of hills. Such areas drain well and have excellent air flow, which helps reduce the chances of foliar fungal diseases like leaf blight.
Like most nut species, gardeners can easily start pecan trees from nuts harvested in the fall. Gardeners can encourage a strong and fast germination rate by stratifying the seeds, according to Oklahoma State University. To stratify, freshly collected nuts are placed in a container full of aerated water. A simple aquarium air pump will provide sufficient aeration. After two days, bury the nuts in moist sand in a sealed container. Put the container in a refrigerator and let it sit for three months before planting the nuts outdoors in late winter or early spring.
Many nurseries and garden stores sell already started pecan trees. This gives gardeners a head start on the growing process. Texas A&M University suggests buying trees that are growing in a container as opposed to bare root pecan saplings. The latter are harder to transplant and more likely to die after being placed in the ground.
Pecan Tree Varieties
There are more than 1,000 different cultivars and varieties of pecans available to the backyard gardener, according to Texas A&M University. Some varieties are better suited for specific regions. Contact a local cooperative extension office to find what types of pecans thrive in your area.
Tempting as it may be, planting too many pecan trees in a small area will result in stunted growth and poor nut production. The University of Florida recommends spacing tees apart by a minimum of 40 feet.
Fertilizer can help newly planted pecan trees get established faster. Apply 1/2 lb. of 21-0-0 fertilizer around the tree in June of its first year, according to Texas A&M University. The following year, increase fertilization intervals to once in April, May and June, providing 1/2 lb. at each application. Increase this to 1 lb. of fertilizer at each application during its third and fourth year and 2 lbs. in its fifth through seventh year. Trees ages 8 and older should receive a pound of fertilizer for every inch of its trunk diameter.