Pecans In Your Landscape

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Luis Ruperto
One of our great writers!

One of the most popular choices of trees to add to the landscape is a pecan. It seems several folks want to have at least one pecan tree around their house but are often frustrated with the lack of results they often get.

Pecans are the state tree of Texas and are said to grow naturally in every county. However, just because they grow naturally some place in our county does not mean that they’ll grow productively in everyone’s landscape.

If you have a pecan tree in your landscape, here are the things that you need to do this year and every year to encourage a healthy tree that produces a pecan crop in the fall. 

First is water. While we have just come out of an incredibly wet spring, it is the summer dry spells that often result in the loss of a pecan crop. Pecans need about an inch of water a week to maintain nut-set. This need for water is most evident in the mid to late portion of the growing season when the pecans are reaching maturity.

Homeowners may notice that pecans will start to drop during a dry summer. It seems that once they have made up their mind to drop their pecans, there’s no amount of water that you can put on them at that time to make them change their mind.

The second most important element is fertilization. The two key nutrients that pecans need that we can supply are nitrogen and zinc. 

Nitrogen (N) can be applied on the ground in a granular form. As a guide, apply 1 lb. of 33-0-0 per inch the trunk is wide each time you fertilize.  For example, a one foot wide trunk needs 12 lbs. of N fertilizer spread evenly under the drip-line.  And do this three times in a year. For your 12 inches wide tree trunk, put out 12 pounds of a 33-0-0 fertilizer in late May. Repeat that with another 12 lbs. of 33-0-0 fertilizer in June. Then give the last fertilizer application of 12 pounds of 33-0-0 in July.

Zinc is the other nutrient that the pecan trees are missing, but zinc has to be applied as a foliar fed fertilizer to do any good. While there are all kinds of zinc fertilizers that you can put on the ground, it is the foliar application of a zinc fertilizer that counts. On smaller trees, homeowners can reach all of the leaves. Zinc is needed for leaf expansion and applications should be made frequently in the early portion of the growing season for maximum growth. 

Lastly, and certainly the most difficult problem, is the control of pests such as disease or insects. Scab is the most common problem affecting all pecan trees in wet, humid areas such as East Texas. Scab is a fungal problem that is the most limiting factor for pecans in our region. However, the real problem is that preventing this fungus requires some expensive equipment that only commercial pecan producers have. 

Adding to this dilemma, simply getting the right fungicide to use on your pecans can also be difficult. The best suggestion for pecan tree owners maybe that they forget about trying to use a fungicide and rely on the fact that they’ve planted the correct type of tree that is already scab resistant. 

How long until you get pecans from a newly planted tree?  The longest estimated time on a variety is 12 years while some are reported to bear in 4-5 years.  

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