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Mississippi Gardens Newsletter ArchivesCaring for pecan trees in the landscape
Mississippi Gardens Newspaper and Web Column - January 27, 2003

Pecans are the most popular nut-producing trees in the South. There's nothing tastier than a pecan pie baked to perfection! However, many Southern residents, in both city and country settings, are frustrated when it comes to keeping their beloved trees bearing delicious pecans!

PecansPecan trees can be beautiful shade trees producing nutritious edible nuts, or an ever-present, ugly specimen with blackened leaves, broken down limbs and rotten fruit. What determines the fate of these Southern favorites depends on some very important factors. These include the type of pecan tree, the site it's growing on, environmental conditions, how it's cared for, and insect/disease pests.

In order for pecan trees to produce high quality nuts they must be given more attention than most other landscape trees. Pecan trees will fare better if planted in full sun and deep, well drained soil. Soil compaction, standing water or too much shade is stressful and will affect the pecan tree's performance and longevity. Stress symptoms include dead or dying limbs, sloughing bark, premature leaf drop and poor nut production.

Some pecan tree management practices are very simple while others take more time and investment. First, a simple soil test will explain how to adequately supply the right amount of lime and fertilizer. This is a relatively inexpensive way to support tree health and vigor. One option is to apply 3 or 4 pounds of 13-13-13 for each inch in trunk diameter, measured one foot above the soil surface in late February or March.

Another simple yet important practice is to irrigate pecan trees during dry periods. A mature pecan tree may need 70 to 105 gallons of water per day! When rain is scarce, encircle the tree with a soaker hose to supply critical water needs.

Most homeowners are not equipped to spray pecan trees to control devastating insect and disease pests yet it can be very important to do so. Some lawn care companies may offer this service. Otherwise, it may be done with a power sprayer and a spray guide from your local County Extension Service Office. Be sure to follow all pesticide label directions and precautions.

Pecan trees are special because they are a part of our Southern heritage. If you have a pecan tree in your landscape you can improve its appearance and enhance its production. Improving the performance of just one pecan tree may supply hundreds of pounds of prize pecans. Begin early this year with a soil test and plans for better management.

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These archived columns were written by Kerry Johnson<, a hobby gardener, former weekly newspaper columnist and retired Extension Horticulture Agent for 11 coastal counties in Mississippi.