Published on 01/27/99

Early Planting Decisions Important to Pecan Trees

Before you even plant a new pecan tree, you may have already decided its success, says a University of Georgia scientist.

The variety you select and where you plant it are the most critical choices homeowners can make when planting pecan trees, said Tom Crocker, an Extension Service horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"Homeowners can't spray their trees the way commercial growers do," he said. "They need to consider disease resistance as their No. 1 choice when they select a variety."

Rob Flynn ARS-USDA
(20190 bytes)

CHOOSE A SCAB-RESISTANT PECAN variety to help ensure a good crop, said Tom Crocker, a UGA horticulturist. Scab, shown on a leaf above can cause a tree to lose its leaves and decrease nut yields. The five most popular resistant varieties are Elliot, Stuart, Curtis, Gloria Grande and Sumner.

Backyard trees mainly need a built-in resistance to scab, a major disease of pecan trees, Crocker said. For all practical purposes, that cuts homeowners' choices to five fine varieties.

Elliott (Crocker's personal favorite) is an especially hardy tree with small, round nuts, golden halves and excellent flavor, he said. It's very resistant to scab.

Stuart, a popular variety, has large, thin-shell nuts with excellent kernels. It's scab-tolerant and a very productive tree.

Curtis, another very productive tree, yields smaller nuts with excellent kernels. It's very resistant to scab.

Gloria Grande, a good producer, is another tree that yields large nuts with excellent kernels.

Sumner is a good producer with excellent kernel quality. It's late-maturing, but very tolerant to scab.

"Those are the best choices of disease-resistant varieties," Crocker said.

"The best size is normally a 5- to 6-foot tree," he said. "This size tree is large enough to have reserves to carry it through some tough times."

February and early March, he said, are the best times to plant. But once you've got the tree, you still have a critical choice to make: where will you plant it?

"Probably the most important aspect of planting pecan trees is to make sure they have enough room to grow," Crocker said. "It's little now, but it's going to be a big tree. Don't plant pecan trees too close to buildings or power lines. It's best to give them 40 to 60 feet on all sides."

A pecan tree, he said, produces nuts on the ends of the limbs. "If it doesn't have room," he said, "it will stop fruiting and grow straight up like a pine tree."

After you've bought a disease-resistant variety and picked a roomy place to plant it, dig a hole big enough -- about 2 feet across and 3 feet deep -- to get the roots off to a good start.

Be careful to plant the tree at the right depth.

"The problem most people have is they tend to plant too deep or too shallow," Crocker said. "They need to take note of the dark area that indicates how deep it was planted at the nursery. Then plant it at that depth."

Then there's one more critical part of getting a good pecan tree started.

"I can't stress water enough," Crocker said. "During the first two years of life, pecan trees should be watered weekly whenever it doesn't get adequate rainfall."

Anything that will help conserve moisture and lessen big fluctuations in soil moisture will help, he said. Good weed control around the base of the tree is important.

"Mulching is the big thing," he said. "That will pay off more than anything else. It controls weeds and conserves moisture."

Kim Coder is a forester with the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.