Have you ever thought about growing pecan trees in your back yard? Well if so, now is the time to plant and start your very own pecan orchard. Today, Georgia is considered the top pecan producing state in the U.S. with over 144,000 acres of planted pecans. Pecans are not only a profitable crop, but are a tasty nutritional crop that can be used in many recipes such as the traditional pecan pies and pralines.
One of the most important decisions in successfully growing pecans is to first select the appropriate cultivar or variety. Although there are numerous pecan cultivars, there are only a few cultivars suitable for “yard-tree” planting due to destructive diseases and insect pests that home owners are not able to manage. The current cultivars recommended for yard-tree plantings include Elliot, Excel, Gloria Grande, and Sumner. You can contact your local extension office for further information to determine the best cultivar suited for you. To have good pollination at least two pecan varieties should be planted.
Once varieties are selected, the pecan trees should be planted good distance away from structures and should be spaced at least 60 to 80 feet apart to prevent crowding.
Trees can be planted as bare-root transplants or container-grown transplants. Bare-root transplants are planted between December and March while dormant. However, the earlier you can plant the better. Container-grown trees can be planted at later date between October- May. Currently with the end of January approaching, bare-root tree planting is your best option.
Bare-root trees need a planting hole at least three feet deep and 12 to 24 inches wide to accommodate for proper positioning of side roots as the hole is refilled. But be careful to not plant the tree too deeply. Planting too deep can cause the tree to become stressed and possibly die. The tree should only be set as deep as it stood in the nursery (indicated by bark color change) or highest lateral root should be even or just under soil line. Also, it is very important to not allow tree roots to dry out.
Once the tree is set, water should be used to begin filling the planting hole. When the hole 1/2 to 3/4 full of water, soil should be pushed into the hole while water continues to run. As the water level reaches the top of the hole, water should be turned off and dirt continued to be pushed into the hole until filled. Do NOT to pack the soil around the tree, only level the soil.
After planting, prune 1/3 to 1/2 of the top of the tree and remove any branches. For the first three years, the trunk should be protected from cold damage, herbicide, and wildlife by either painting trunk with white latex paint or using growing tube or sleeve over the tree. Lastly, mulch trees with six-inch layer of pine straw, leaves, or old sawdust.
To care for the young pecan trees, they should receive 10 to 15 gallons of water on weekly intervals for the first two to three years. Fertilizer should NOT be placed in planting hole. A soil test prior to planting is recommended to determine fertilizer rate. During the first year, the annual terminal growth for young pecan trees should be from 2 to 4 feet. If the pecan tree is exemplifying this growth, fertilizer can then be applied during June.
All information was obtained from the UGA extension publication, “Pecan Trees for the Home or Backyard Orchard”, by Lenny Wells, Will Hudson, and Jason Brock and from, “Planting and Care of Young Pecan Trees,” by Lenny Wells. For more information you can visit http://www.caes.uga.edu/commodities/fruits/pecan/index.html to view more information for pecan production.