Asked on Dec 02, 2014

How do I bring back this pecan tree to its full potential?

Angela A
by Angela A
I recently moved to this new place that has an old Pecan tree. I've been able to pick up a few Pecans this year, but from talking to my neighbor (who benefits from the tree as well because it's on the fence line) it's not producing anything like it used to. She says that they "topped it" (cut the top out) a couple of years ago and since then it hasn't produced like it used to. Although I have gardening experience, I have absolutely NO experience with Pecan trees. So, here I turn to my "expert" friends on my favorite site, HOMETALK! :) I have two questions actually:
1.) When they fall from the tree, are the ones that still have the "outer" shell any good? I haven't cracked them yet, so I was wondering if I am wasting my time by picking those up at all. As you all know, it's a job in itself, lol. (see pic).
2.) How would I go about fertilizing/caring for this massive tree and trying to get it to produce better next season?
I was actually hoping to put a flower bed around the tree this spring, is that a bad idea for a Pecan tree? (OK, so maybe I had 3 questions lol).
Any help anyone can give would be greatly appreciated, as always!
Thanks all!! :)
My Harvest :) You can see there are some here that still have the "outer" shell still on them....
  15 answers
  • Barb Rosen Barb Rosen on Dec 02, 2014
    While not a pecan expert, my family did have some pecan trees on the farm when I was growing up. Pecan trees will have good years and so-so to bad years on crops depending on weather conditions. They like Zinc and are a long-lived tree. Here are some reasons they don't bear well that might be of help to you. Hopefully, some pecan growing experts will come along with some more advice! @Douglas Hunt ?
    • Angela A Angela A on Dec 02, 2014
      @Barb Rosen Thank you, I have printed this and added to my "gardening do's and don'ts go to book". This was a good read, thanks. I definitely think the tree needs a good fertilizing; I doubt it has been fertilized in years. An elderly couple lived here before us and I don't think they got around good in their latter years. So I believe it could benefit from some TLC. I'm hoping! thanks again! :)
  • Catherine Smith Catherine Smith on Dec 02, 2014
    Barb is right. Pecan's seem to have off again on again years. And Zinc sulfate is the fertilizer of choice. Our's provided a nice crop this year. Here's a site that may help you. And you can always contact your local extension office for additional information and help.
    • Angela A Angela A on Dec 02, 2014
      @Catherine Smith more great information! Thank you! I've printed this article as well! :)
  • Wanda.ll Wanda.ll on Dec 02, 2014
    I've always been told you can't grow under a pecan tree due to the acid in the leaves. I would contact you local 4-H or Hordicultural (sp) . Ours is run by the county we live in and it is free help like you need. And yes the pecans have a 3 year cycle I think. Now as far as still in the case you can just leave them and that will pop off or you can take off. The pecans are still good. Here is another tip from the greatgrandmother next door to me when I had a tree. Don't SHELL put in the freezer in the shell. They will stay good for years( I've got some now 20 +years old still just like new) yes I've kept them and use them when needed. She was right like so many older poeple and their ideas. Good luck.
    • Angela A Angela A on Dec 02, 2014
      @Wanda.ll wow...really? That's amazing....would have never thought of freezing them and them lasting for years like that! Thanks!
  • Julie Julie on Dec 02, 2014
    I also, would like to know if pecans that have not shed their outer coverings, are any good. I avoid these, but should I gather them too?
    • See 1 previous
    • Angela A Angela A on Dec 02, 2014
      I cracked some today that still had the outer shells on them. Mostly they were no good. What I found with mine was that if it was still on tight, no good. Dry and loose, I had a chance they might be good. But over all, it was pretty much hit and miss with mine. BUT this could be bc my tree may need fertilizing or something. I'm not sure at this point. I'm just not experienced enough with it yet. I will fertilize it like the articles the nice ladies provided said and see what happens next year. Who knows, maybe I'll get a bumper crop!! :-)
  • LYNN LYNN on Dec 02, 2014
    Actually, the ones in the picture look to be old. They may not be good. Do they feel heavy? If they don't you are probably wasting your time picking those up. I have frozen pecans in the Shell and they do last a long time but mine only lasted a year because we ate them, lol! Good luck
  • Angela A Angela A on Dec 02, 2014
    A few feel heavy but most don't, not compared to the ones with no shell....I'll crack a few and see lol....I'm curious now!
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Dec 02, 2014
    @Barb Rosen has given you some excellent info. I don't have personal experience growing pecans, but I do know that pecan scale is often the culprit when trees do not produce well. At a minimum your tree should be fertilized every spring, and it would be great if you have a soil test done in advance of that. I would not recommend putting a flower bed around the tree as you don't want anything competing for nutrients in the soil. Walter Reeves has some more advice here:
  • Girl Girl on Dec 02, 2014
    I moved into a house in 2012, where there was a drought in Houston, TX. My 2 pecan trees was dry and black inside. I am estimating that my tree is 60yrs old, as old as the house. I also read that they live to be 300+ yrs, so I don't have to worry about it dying. This year 2014 without doing anything to it, it produced edible pecans! It rained alot this year also, so pecans do have their on/off years. The outside layer before the shell is the "shuck". I pick any pecans that are off the ground as long as they are not cracked. I apply a light pressure with my feet to remove the shuck before I put it in my bucket so it is less work later. They are all good. Love my trees. Pecans leaves and etc are known to inhibit other plant's growth, so try not to throw the pecans shells back into your garden or compost. My neighbor has 2 Pecans in front and both have flower beds on it, it does fine. And I actually pick their pecans also since they don't want it. I just learned our land and surrounding used to be a Pecan farm! No wonder every house has several Pecan Trees.
  • Irene Irene on Dec 02, 2014
    About 10 or 15 years ago I had a large veggie garden. One day while pulling weeds I saw a plant that looked like a baby tree it was about 6 or so inches tall. I tried to pull it out but it was rooted in tight. I got my shovel and dug around it to loosen up the soil and pulled it out. Lo and behold the roots were attached to a pecan seed. I planted it in a pot and it grew and grew. At one point I put it in a larger pot and a few years later in a big plastic pot about 24 inches across. This tree obviously grew roots out the bottom of the pot and it is about 8 or 10 feet tall. It has never bloomed or had any nuts on it. After seeing the picature and reading about how huge a pecan tree can get I'm wondering if I should cut it down. It is about 10 feet from my house. My house is on a cement slab. Now I'm worried that the roots might grow too big and ruin the cement slab that my house sits on.
    • See 2 previous
    • Linda Webb Linda Webb on Jan 26, 2015
      @Irene Take the tree down, not only foundation problems but pecan trees are very soft and limbs break as the wind blows, I have about 60 trees and a good storm leaves limbs all over the grown plus the tree itself could come down being that close to your house and I have trees that a probably over a 100yrs. old that are huge.
  • Denise Rankin Denise Rankin on Dec 02, 2014
    Your on the right track with gathering, info that is. I had the same questions when I moved into my first house in St. Mary, GA with 7 pecan trees. Let just say that I learned that one of the most valuable harvest tools was a hard hat! Have fun!
  • Peggy Gama Peggy Gama on Dec 02, 2014
    I'm not an expert but I do know that pecan trees have some not so good years then a really great one. So I've heard. I'd feed it for sure and while it's leafless, with a very long pole pull down the branches that can be broken off.
    • Debbie Hemsath Debbie Hemsath on Dec 04, 2014
      My uncle in La told me their trees have a high yield every other year. He also could tell from the weight if it was good or not!
  • Christine Brown Christine Brown on Dec 02, 2014
    Trim the branches from neighbor yard, this tree needs maniure not just around trunk but all around where roots are. Start slow and go out from there.Roots 50 feet away. Usually neighbors do not like tree limbs on or near their property, they will kill it or take the pecans, so they think your tree is dying. Put coconut oil around trunk to keep furry friends away close to picking time.
  • Janis Hill Janis Hill on Dec 02, 2014
    Spread a 10-10-10 fertilizer around the tree. Begin about a foot out from the trunk and spread all the way out to the end of the branches. Imagine the tree being upside down, as that is roughly the way the roots grow. Apply the fertilizer in late winter or early spring and again in late spring. When the tree begins to bear nuts, use four pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer for each inch of trunk diameter. Use about 3 pounds of zinc spread in the same general area underneath the branches. If you want to plant under it try hosta, bleeding heart, spotted deadnettle, ajuga, or ornamental strawberry. Or you could just cover the area with pine straw for a neat and tidy look. I wouldn't worry to much about picking up pecans this year. Rake to get up the old ones, fertilize as recommended and wait for a fresh crop next year. Hope this helps.
  • Linda Webb Linda Webb on Jan 26, 2015
    If you are picking up pecans, the shells should easily come off with your foot rubbing it on ground. If the shell is attached, forget it the pecan is bad! I have had 60/70 trees all my life and you are wasting your time picking up pecans with shells that are stuck, also your dark looking pecans are probably from the year before bad too. In in Ga. and this season was ok for pecans but the prior year I made none!
    • Angela A Angela A on Jan 26, 2015
      Thanks Linda, I have found (the hard way) what you have said is true....the ones with the shell still on are NO good! And you're right, I was wasting my time picking them up and cracking them, but you live and you learn! :-) I think you're right about the darker ones too, I think they were there from last year....I'm going to try and fertilize the tree (I've read about how to do it) and see whatwe get next year :-)
  • Ralph Black Ralph Black on Nov 01, 2019

    I have a pecan tree that was negelcted for years. It is around 60 years old. What happened was after my parents died this part 6of the property became very overgrown. About 5 years ago I cleared the land but manually cleared round the pecan as there were several small easten red cedar and water oaks less then 3 feet tall that I relocated. Most of what I cleared was privet that I just snipped off at the ground. To discourage regrowth of the privet I used a 20 year landscape fabric to about 20 feet from the trunk and had a local farmers with cattle bring in 2 tractor buckets of old cow manure and spread it 4-6 inches over the ground cover cloth. I planted grass on the manure for it to fit in with the rest of the area I had cleared. That 60 year old tree rejuvenated and is producing a huge crop every other year. What I wasn't intending on was the manure slowly decomposes feeding that huge tree and also drops 2-3 more leaves on the ground around it.