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How to Grow Pecan Trees in Alabama

pecans image by Stephen Orsillo from

Alabama is a state that has perfect growing conditions for pecan trees. In fact, Alabama soil is so ideal for growing pecans that the state has become a major exporter, producing roughly 59 million lbs.between 1998 and 2007. Pecans account for such a large amount of the state's commerce that the pecan is designated the state nut. Typical varieties in the state include Jenkins, McMillan, Carter, Farley, Cape Fear and Elliott. When growing a pecan tree in Alabama, it is best to start with a bare-root tree and graft it onto a desired variety after it has established itself.

Measure the yard. Pecan trees should be placed at least 20 feet away from any structures and 50 feet away from any other pecan trees. Mark the ideal location for planting with marking chalk. Alabama has numerous species of squirrels including grey and fox squirrels that will ruin a nut harvest. Spacing the trees 50 feet apart ensures that as the trees reach their peak heights squirrels will be unable to jump limbs from tree to tree.

Prepare the soil. Alabama soil is ideal for planting pecan trees with the state's sandy loam soil and the clay subsoil. If you are in an urban area that does not have this consistency of soil, spread 2 inches of coarse sand over the entire surface of the area being used for planting and till it into the soil to a depth of 2 feet.

Plant the tree. Dig a hole that is twice the root ball's diameter and 6 inches deeper. Place the root ball into the hole and fill the hole with dirt. Leave a 6-inch deep tree well with a 3-foot radius from the trunk of the tree.

Deep water the pecan tree daily for the first month, as it is establishing itself. Then back off the watering to twice weekly. This will allow the ground time to dry out and prevent soil disease.

Fertilize the tree annually. Apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer in April to the tree at a rate of 2 lbs. per tree. The tree can also be supplemented with 1/10 lb. of zinc sulphate.

Test the soil. Test the soil each winter to determine its pH. If the soil has become acidic (pH below 7) then till some lime into the tree's well.

Prune the tree. Prune off any branches that have grown below 6 feet from the ground to prevent squirrels, such as the fox squirrel, from ruining the nuts. If squirrels are climbing the trees, nail a 6-inch piece of sheet metal around the trunk of the tree roughly 4 feet from the ground. The squirrels will be unable to grasp onto the tree.

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