Pecan tree maintenance
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 11:30 AM
The last two years have been productive for pecan trees in the home landscape. I have been getting numerous calls about fertilization and insect control in anticipation of another productive year. Growing pecan trees in the home landscape is not necessarily an economical way to get pecans for that pecan pie. Maintaining a healthy, productive tree is challenging. A few helpful tips will reduce some of the problems.
To keep your tree growing and ensure consistent nut production, you need to fertilize pecan trees annually. For bearing trees, you want 8-12 inches of new growth per year. The best time to fertilize your tree is from late February through March. Apply a complete fertilizer such as 13-13-13 at the rate of 2 - 4 cups for each inch of trunk diameter. Broadcast apply the fertilizer starting 2 feet from the trunk and extending out past the ends of the branches.
Homeowner pecan trees are often deficient in zinc. Trees deficient in zinc have small leaves and highly branched twigs at the shoot tips. To correct a zinc deficiency, apply zinc sulfate to the soil at the rate of 1/2 pound per inch of trunk diameter with a maximum of 10 pounds per tree per year.
A pecan tree will not produce well-filled nuts without adequate water. Pecan trees have an expansive root system and need from 1 inch of water per week in the spring to more than 2 inches per week in the summer. Adequate water is especially critical during late season nut fill.
Spraying large pecan trees in the home landscape for insects and diseases can be a problem. Yard care companies will generally not spray trees over about 15 feet tall because spraying a tree located in a residential area can be a risky undertaking. Hose-end sprayers are the only type most home owners have at their disposal that will spray very far up into the tree, but even these are limited to trees no more than 30 feet tall.
A new insecticide, imadicloprid, (brand names of Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control Concentrate and Expert Gardener Tree & Shrub Insect Control Concentrate), is now available for homeowner insect control. This insecticide is applied to the soil and is absorbed by the tree roots. Imadicloprid will aid in control of sucking insects such as aphids.
No one enjoys fertilizing, watering, and spraying their pecan trees only to see squirrels, crows, and blue jays carry off the nuts. It is impossible to achieve complete control of wildlife in urban areas. You can reduce the amount of damage using live traps and scare tactics.
Pecan production in home landscapes is rarely a paying proposition when you consider the cost of animal control, insect control, fertilization, and irrigation. If you are determined to take up the challenge of growing pecans in your yard, I recommend that you contact your local Extension Service office and request Information Sheet 439 -Homeowner Pecan Insect and Disease Controls and Information Sheet 1432 Fruit and Nut Review: Pecans in the Home Landscape.