When planting pecan orchards, producers have two options for orchard establishment: container trees or bareroot trees. A common trend is the use of bareroot trees when developing orchards. Bareroot trees are planted while they are dormant. Trees will consist mainly of a taproot around 30 inches long with very few lateral or hair roots.
The following steps can be used when planting bareroot trees:
First, dig a hole 8-10 inches in diameter, 18-20 inches deep. Once the hole is dug, scar up the sidewalls of the hole. This will ensure that the soil has not become packed against the wall. If soil does become too packed, an impermeable wall could form causing a bowl effect. This bowl will hold water and possibly damage the root system.
Next, cut the taproot to fit the hole. Be sure to plant the tree at the same depth that it was at the nursery. Research has shown that by cutting back the taproot to around 18 inches, fibrous root growth will be stimulated which is important for nutrient and water uptake. Make sure to trim back all lateral roots so that they fit inside the hole. Then place the tree into the hole with the graft facing the south side.
Pack the soil that was removed from the hole back around the tree. Firmly pack the soil in order to remove any air pockets around the root system. Additional soil may be required to completely fill the hole. Once the tree is planted, cut one-third to one-half of the top off of the tree. This will balance the root-to-shoot ratio and encourage growth. Be sure to cut one-half inch above the bud on the south side of the tree to prevent damage to the bud. The bud should be on the south side of the tree to form a straighter tree because the force from the wind will push the tree to the north.
Finally, water the tree thoroughly to ensure that no air pockets are left around the roots. Pockets of air could potentially dry the roots and kill the tree.
Additional steps can be taken to increase the survival of these young trees. Controlling grass and weeds around the base of the tree is a common management practice. A 3- to 6-foot vegetation-free area around each tree will greatly increase the survival and growth of these young trees. It is also important to remember that water is critical for young trees. Young trees do not have much of a root system; therefore, there is not a large area for uptake of water. An often overlooked fact is that young pecan trees require zinc fertilizer. A foliar spray of zinc sulfate should be used every two to three weeks from bud break through the first of August. It is imperative to monitor your usage because leaves can burn from excess zinc. A mixture of 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons per gallon of water is sufficient.
If you are planting or planning to plant any new trees and have questions, please contact us for assistance.