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Tuesday - August 26, 2008

From: Elgin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Transplants, Trees
Title: Pecan tree transplant in Elgin, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello, Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a question about how to encourage a very young pecan sapling to grow, and whether I should use mulch to do so. I live in Elgin (Bastrop County) and the soil is extremely sandy. In the heat of the summer, the soil becomes as hard as cement. This sapling is a transplant, which originated from a 65+ year old pecan tree that is growing in central Austin in good soil. Apparently squirrels buried the pecan in one of my hibiscus planters and the hibernating pecan moved with us from Austin to Elgin last year. The tree surprised us by coming up in the planter this past spring, and in July, when the tree was about 10" tall, I planted it in the yard in full sun, allowing a wide berth for growth. With the extreme temperatures we experienced this year, I have been deep watering the tree every few days to keep it alive. There are new leaves on the tree, and it seems to keep growing taller, although it was faring better in the planter before. I'm afraid that I may have transplanted it too early in its life? Please let me know what else you suggest that I do to keep this tree alive and encourage its growth. Thank you!

ANSWER:

Carya illinoinensis (pecan) is the native Texas pecan, and squirrels burying nuts and forgetting where they were is one of the ways the wild pecans were spread. It's a little hard to say if you transplanted it too soon, but pecans are difficult to transplant because of their deep taproots. You probably did well to get it out of the pot before that taproot got to the point that it would break off, or get tangled up with the roots of your hibiscus. If it was faring better in the planter, that could be because of the rich potting soil and perhaps fertilizer that had been put in the soil for the benefit of the hibiscus. Highly alkaline soils (which lots of Central Texas areas have) may require some zinc added to the soil for the pecan. The sandy soil is all right. The pecan requires a rich, moist, well-draining soil. Sand drains well, but maybe too well. An organic mulch, like compost or shredded bark, would add some texture to the soil and help it hold some water. It would also shelter the roots of the tree from the hot Summer sun. The last recommendation is to fertilize it three times a year with a nitrogen-heavy lawn fertilizer, 3:2:1 ratio. It would probably be best to wait until cooler weather to fertilize, and do it very carefully, so it won't burn the tender roots. It appears to us your little pecan baby has had the right kind of care. Just try to keep from mowing it, and hope no animals come along and nibble it. After a few years, the pecan can grow up to 3 feet a year, and live a very long time.

 

 

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