One of the finest tastes of the South is a slice of pecan pie. Georgia is a leading producer of pecan nuts for the United States, thanks to its fertile soils and long growing season. When planting this fast-growing tree in a backyard garden, you need a spacious location;a cultivar that is disease resistant, especially to scab; and at least one other pecan tree nearby to ensure good pollination.
Where to Grow the Pecan
Choose a spot on your property that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight. Avoid a spot that is under power lines or other utility lines or is less than 20 to 25 feet from a building or other large tree.
Examine the soil in the chosen location. It should be fertile, with good drainage, meaning after a rainfall the water soaks into the soil without remaining soggy.
Test your soil's pH with a test kit from a garden center or by taking a soil sample in a cup to your local Cooperative Extension office. Pecans perform best in a soil that is mildly acidic, with a pH range of 6.0 to 6.5.
Choosing a Pecan Tree
Pick a container-grown plant that is at least 4 to 5 feet tall and are grafted. Avoid trees raised from seed, as they will be distinctly different from the parent tree, according to Texas A&M University.
Look for a tree that appears vigorous and well-grown in the container. Avoid plants that do not have a straight trunk, have malformed or spotted leaves, or have roots coming out of the bottom of the pot.
Verify via a plant label or nursery professional that the pecan variety is disease resistant, especially to scab. Lenny Wells, a pecan specialist at the University of Georgia, recommends the varieties "Elliott," "Excel," "Gloria Grande" and "Sumner" for home orchards.
Planting the Tree
Dig a hole with a large garden shovel. Make the hole twice as wide as the tree's current container, but no deeper than its height.
Remove the tree from the container, trying not to disrupt the roots or lost a large amount of soil. Examine the root ball, looking for any girdling roots, those that are entwined around the root ball. Gently pry any encircling roots free so that they lay naturally out from the root ball.
Place the tree into the hole, ensuring that the top of the rootball is at the same height as the top of the hole.
Backfill the soil into the hole around the base of the rootball until the hole is 1/3 to 1/2 full of soil. Do not add any fertilizer or soil amendments, like compost or purchased topsoil or manure mixtures.
Fill the hole with water from a garden hose, allowing it to gently trickle and fill to 1/4 full. Allow it to soak in.
Place the remainder of the soil into the hole until it is full. Avoid placing soil on top of the root ball, as it should be at the same level as the surrounding soil. Create a small berm around the hole to create a moat-like basin for collecting water.
Add 5 to 10 gallons of water into the moat basin around the newly transplanted tree. Monitor the tree for the first two years, ensuring that the soil is never dry. The plant should receive 10 to 15 gallons of water each week.
Place an organic mulch over the root zone of the tree at a depth of 4 to 5 inches. Keep the mulch away from the trunk of the tree, but extend the carpet of mulch out 3 to 5 feet to retain soil moisture, moderate soil temperatures and prevent weeds.
Add a granular, balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 to the tree's root zone in the second year after transplant when at least 12 inches of new stem growth has occurred.