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Why Pecan Trees Rock!

While pecan trees can grow in a wide range of soils, they produce best in sandy loam with clay subsoil. Photo by Mic Theory

Pecan trees (carya illinoinensis) take 20 to 25 years to reach full maturity and get 60-100 feet tall, with a spread of 30-50 feet across. But don't get discouraged : Pecan trees started from container grown stock will begin to produce nuts in as little as 4-6 years.

HOW TO START: The Plan: grow a pecan tree. Start it off in the nursery pot. Re-pot it whenever you have to, making sure that the taproot does not ever get to a point that it starts to spiral around the bottom of the pot. Which means putting it in taller, larger pots. Eventually, you will need to put it into one of those big garbage bins on top of the little dollies with casters. Whether it be a 32 gallon, 65 gallon, or however large; just big enough to make sure that the roots can really take off and the taproot does not spiral. The only dwarf pecan tree commonly sold can find is the Pawnee pecan tree and even that is supposed to get to 30 feet high.

Pecan trees are awesome trees for new homeowners to grow. Growing pecans is a relatively long-term endeavor, requiring the right climate and some patience due to their susceptibility to disease and slow growth, respectively. For these reasons, it's best to think of pecans as shade trees in the landscape with the eventual added benefit of harvestable nuts. Sedges, grasses, coral bells (Heuchera spp.), and other smaller perennials with fibrous root systems can be planted under the canopy of pecans.Pecans tolerate being planted near black walnut trees. This tree requires a medium amount of maintenance. Due to its size, this is a tree most appropriate for a large property.

For pecan trees to bare nuts you will need two or more different cultivars, as they require cross pollination for maximum productivity. Pecan trees do not bear fruit until they are between the ages of four and 12 years old and that is determined by the cultivar. Plant pecan trees at least 30 feet apart and 20 feet or more from buildings or other structures. Select sites with full sun and deep soil with good drainage. Pecan trees require a lot of water, but standing pools will damage or even kill developing trees. Pecan trees are heavy users of zinc. It is an essential nutrient for good growth and nut production. Zinc is commonly applied to improved cultivar pecan trees as a foliar spray.

Pecan trees are wind-pollinated; therefore, pollinators (i.e., bees) are not required to complete pollination. Cross-pollinated pecans are usually larger and higher quality than self-pollinated pecans. A mulch layer 4 feet to 6 feet on either side of the tree and 4 inches to 6 inches deep promotes tree growth, especially in the first two to three years after planting. The mulch conserves moisture and controls weeds that compete with the trees. Wood chips, straw or other organic material can be used as mulch. Butterfly gardens are great to plant near pecan trees.


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