Grow Backyard Pecan Trees for Food and Nostalgia

Reader Contribution by Monica White
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Pecan trees offer beautiful landscaping. Photo by Andrea Barstow on Pixabay

The crisp season of fall is always a welcoming time of year. It seems that the hazy, blistering days of summer have expired and been put away, in exchange for the comforts of more traditional, festive occasions. There’s promise in the air, which hints at the celebrated season to come. Such gifts of fall include cooler weather,  football games, holidays with great food, family and friends to accompany it with. A slice of pecan pie is also ever popular this time of year.

A Nostalgic Backyard Tree for the Southeast

Growing up in sunny Florida, my grandmother had a backyard full of citrus trees, along with an avocado and pecan tree. My older sister and I claimed the last two as our personal climbing trees. During the fall months, as we played outside whenever we became “lunch-y,” as the old folks called it — there was no need to have to stop and go inside to snack. We’d simply snack on the abundance of freshly fallen pecans from the grand old pecan tree.

The popular saying “proper planning  prevents poor performance” can pay to many areas of gardening and agriculture, but is especially true when it comes to planting pecan trees.

I’ve always felt a little nostalgia surrounding each tree’s first fruits of the fall season. For me, it brings back those sweet memories of eating the pecans from my grandmother’s house. I even tried planting from the nuts from the pecan tree taken from my grandmother’s yard to ours. But I got a grand old oak tree instead. A considerable fair trade from the random acorns and nuts that I scattered through the yard. Yet I always knew there was nothing quite like the simple joy of taking the nutcracker and cracking into those fresh pecans from the backyard pecan tree. To plant a pecan tree and finally get to realize the fruits of one’s labor is even greater reward than taste alone.

Growing Pecan Trees

If you’re in a region that supports the growth of pecan trees, and you’re willing to invest the time and care required, you’ll likely reap some of the greatest rewards of the fall season, while enjoying even greater long-term success with growing pecan trees.

Right from the start, one should realize that in order to successfully grow pecan trees, some of the most important set of “tools” at one’s disposal will be adequate amounts of patience, planning, water, and space. A pecan tree can grow to become quite large, reaching an average height of around 100 feet when fully mature.

Benefits. Not only are pecan trees an attractive landscape feature, but they provide significant tangible benefits as well. The shade that a pecan tree provides, can greatly increase one’s outdoor enjoyment on a homestead property. The tree can provide a comfortable respite of outdoor shade and shelter for people and livestock. In addition to a tree providing an energy conservation opportunity with shaded areas of the homestead being cooler, requiring less air-conditioning usage. And yes, of course, there’s the obvious end result of the buttery pecans and their byproducts for homestead or commercial consumption.

Spacing. One of the most critical areas in the success of growing pecan trees, is in the planning and planting. Many may not think of planting small, young trees, at least 70 to 80 feet apart. A fully matured pecan tree’s branches extend an average of 35 to 40 feet from it’s trunk. When pecan trees are planted too closely, they must be replanted to allow proper spacing between them or other structures. Trees spaced too close also causes misshapen and underdeveloped trees. This replanting can introduce undue stress to a young, developing tree. The stress opens up other possible vulnerabilities, affecting the tree’s optimal health and pecan production.

Young Pecan Fruit – Photo credit: Pixaby

Planting. Once the planting location has been determined, with present and future structures considered, as well as any overhead electrical wires, etc., the actual planting details should be carefully followed. Specific pecan varieties or “cultivars” are more successful than others and should be carefully considered for your particular region. Some trees are more disease prone and less scab-resistant, depending upon a variety of factors.

Disease. Pecan scab is a fungal disease prevalent to young, developing pecan trees across the southeastern portions of the United States. It’s cause is largely due to an abundance of moisture left untreated on the tree’s major surfaces. Young trees should be sprayed at first budding, and then continued every 14 to 21 days until mid August. Climate characteristics, such as heavy rainfall the year before, greatly influences scab growth the present year. Pecan scab can be reduced by selecting a cultivar that is scab-resistant to a particular growing area. Young trees should also be kept sanitary with regular water spraying, limb trimming and by avoiding any conditions holding prolonged moisture or ground contact.

Transplanting. Young pecan trees are planted primarily in one of two ways: as bare-root transplants or as container-grown pecan trees. Although the bare-root transplants should be planted 3 feet deep, due to its long tap root, and 24 inches of diameter in width, giving the roots ample spread allowance when the plant is placed in the planting hole. Young container trees follow similar planting methods.

Monica White is a freelance writer, member of the Georgia Air National Guard, and an avid runner and cyclist who loves the great outdoors and all things DIY. She divides her time between Tampa and her central Florida property, where she’s growing a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Monica on heroutdoor lifestyle blog, onFacebook, TwitterandInstagram. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.

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