Published on 06/09/05

'What's wrong with pecan tree, garden vegetables?'

By Wade Hutcheson
University of Georgia

As a University of Georgia Extension Service county agent, I spend a lot of time answering questions. And lately, I've been answering a lot of pecan- and vegetable-related queries.

"What's wrong with the pecan tree in my yard?" many people ask. "The leaves are covered in warts. There's this strange growth, too, on the tips of some branches."

So what's wrong? Well, to start with, the tree is in your yard. Pecan trees can be handy in the fall, but they really don't make desirable landscape trees.

The problem homeowners most often describe is caused by a small, aphid-like, flying insect called a pecan phylloxera.

The adult phylloxera lays an egg everywhere you find warts and galls. The egg laying causes this growth, which surrounds the developing egg. This happened just after the budbreak, and there's nothing practical to do for it now.

What to do

To begin with, it's too late. The damage is done. Add to that the impossible job, for a home gardener, of spraying a large pecan tree. Your neighbors would panic if you tried to properly spray it with the specialized equipment required to force the product throughout the canopy to the top of the tree.

On the bright side, the damage won't kill the tree. However, it will reduce the nut crop. For backyard pecan trees, the three best practices you can do to help that tree are to:

  1. Fertilize properly, beginning in February.

  2. Clean up all debris under the tree several times each year.

  3. Provide water, within restrictions, when it doesn't rain enough, especially in June through September.
Trying to apply insecticides or fungicides to a large pecan tree is simply not an option for the backyard tree. Just do these three things and be happy for any nuts it gives.

If you're fortunate, you might have a decent crop every other year. But for the money you'd spend on properly fertilizing a pecan tree, you could buy enough pecans for the entire neighborhood.

Garden woes

Many people also ask, "What's wrong with my vegetables? Nothing's growing or even germinating."

This problem could result from several things, including the garden location, planting date, seed quality and fertility. I generally ask a few questions to find specific answers. But the overlying cause this year has been the cool, damp, spring weather.

The weather has prevented soil temperatures from reaching levels to promote plant growth. It has also kept seeds from germinating. Conditions are better now, though, and I encourage replanting if it's needed.

Finally, a tomato question: "I've got lots of vine but very few flowers," people say. "The flowers I've had have fallen off. What's wrong?"

Again, the weather may be causing this. But I'd bet you overfertilized, especially with nitrogen or high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Too much nitrogen causes tomato plants to grow lots of foliage at the expense of flowers and fruit. Fertilize tomatoes before you plant them and again when the first fruits are just bigger than a golf ball.

Follow soil test results. Or use a half-pound of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet of bed each time. Incorporate the first application into the soil before you plan. Apply the other as a side-dressing.

Keep tomatoes mulched to help control soil moisture and weeds and soil splashing onto leaves, stems and fruit.

Some of mine are almost ripe now, and I can't wait for that first slice. You know, there are only two things that money can't buy: true love and homegrown tomatoes.

(Wade Hutcheson is a University of Georgia Extension Service agent serving Spalding, Henry and Newton counties.)

Wade Hutcheson is a county Extension agent with UGA Cooperative Extension serving Spalding County.