Pecan Tree Care

Jeremy Hebert  |  2/23/2012 9:28:50 PM

Proper fertilization is critical when applying any fertilizer to pecan trees.

A simple soil test can be done to see what nutrients are available to the tree.

Pecan trees are often those neglected trees that many homeowners think will produce pecans without much effort. Well some trees will produce pecans, but these trees still need the proper care and fertilizer in order to maximize yield potentials and healthy growth.

Many pecan trees that are growing in residential landscapes produce very few pecans due to improper care and improper fertilization. Fertilizer is very important to pecan tree health and overall production. Low fertility in the soil causes poor shoot growth, reduces nut set and increases the risk of the tree getting diseases and winter damage. Fertility of pecan trees can vary due to the soil they are planted in. Many young pecan trees that are transplanted in fertile soil may not need immediate fertilizer. On the other hand, pecan trees planted in poorer soils that are not fertile may require several applications of fertilizer throughout the year. Each tree is different and the fertility of the soil plays a very important role. Knowing what nutrients are available and the pH, will greatly increase the trees overall growth and production.

Proper fertilization is critical when applying any fertilizer to pecan trees. Pecan trees should be fertilized during the late dormant season, usually between February and early March. When applying the fertilizer, it is best to apply it one foot from the trunk and just beyond the tips of the branches (this is usually where the feeder roots are). “How much fertilizer should I apply?” is a very common question. To better answer the question, following certain guidelines will ensure that the right amount of fertilizer is being applied. The first thing you will need to do is measure the diameter of the trunk of the tree. Get a tape measure and stand next to the tree and measure the tree’s diameter about 1-2 feet above the soil line. Once you get the diameter of the tree’s trunk, you can then figure out how much fertilizer to apply. A general rule of thumb is to apply about 3 pounds of a complete fertilizer (ex. 8-8-8) or an equivalent amount of another complete fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter. For example, if your pecan tree has a diameter of 10 inches, the tree should receive about 30 pounds of 8-8-8 or 18.5 pounds of 13-13-13.

If zinc deficiencies occur on acid soils, it is best to also apply 36% zinc sulfate at a rate of ½ pound per inch of trunk diameter up to a maximum of 10 pounds per mature tree every third year. When the soils are alkaline with a pH of 7.0 and up, zinc must be sprayed on the leaves at 14-day intervals beginning in April through June. This will help out with the zinc deficiency that the tree may be having and ensure that the proper amounts of zinc are available for development.

Insects can also hamper with the overall production of the pecan tree. Some of the more common insects that are associated with pecan trees are aphids, stink bugs, webworms and leaf-footed bugs; all can cause damage to the tree and keep the tree from producing good yields. Being able to carefully monitor the trees and identifying the insects will allow you to properly select what insecticide (if any) should be used and what proper application should be used as well. By controlling the insect population, you increase the durability of the tree and improve the quality of the actual pecans.

Having fertile ground and being able to maintain the pecan tree by keeping it free of insects is the key to success. Every now and then you will find pecan trees that have not been fertilized and have not been taken care of producing good yields; however, to produce good yields on a constant basis requires the proper care and attention that is needed. A simple soil test can be done to see what nutrients are available to the tree and what the soil pH is in the soil. This will allow you to see what the soil fertility is like and at that time you can determine what type of fertilizer is needed and at what rates.
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