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This article appeared in the January-February 2002 issue of Horticulture Update,
edited by Dr. Douglas F. Welsh, and produced by Extension Horticulture,
Texas Cooperative Extension, The Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas.

Texas Pecan Yard Trees

By Dr. George Ray McEachern
Extension Horticulturist (Retired), Texas A&M University

ecans are as much a part of Texas as cows, cotton, and oil. Since the first settlers discovered their fine flavor and food value, respect and love of pecans has continued. From the very beginning of Texas, pecans have been a special part of every fall and winter party, church dinner, special treat, and holiday. Early settlements along Texas rivers were on the receiving end of one of nature’s special gifts to man. In much of Texas, pecan trees are the best form of shade, they are beautiful, and they produce nuts which taste great and provide a good source of energy. We have to take our hats off to Governor Hogg for starting the movement which resulted in the pecan becoming the state tree of Texas. As a result of his deathbed appreciation of the pecan, Texans became aware that they had a living treasure, and have since made it special. The pecan has, thus, become a favorite yard tree in every county in Texas.

Many homesteads and communities with deep, well drained soil and water for irrigation are recognized for the large number of pecans as yard trees. San Saba, Seguin, and Uvalde have become centers of pecan culture, and there are numerous cities with thousands of pecan trees. Abilene and San Angelo are like two big pecan orchards in the middle of Big Sky Country. Big cities such as San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, and Houston are very large pecan orchards with only one or two trees per home. There are hundreds of small towns, such as Clyde, Hamilton, Kerrville, Granbury, Vernon, and Palestine, which have over 1,000 pecan trees in yards, parks, and roadside areas. The state capitol in Austin, and many courthouse squares in places such as Mason, Menard, Eldorado, Fort Davis, Fort Stockton, and many more, are surrounded with beautiful pecan trees. Amarillo and Houston have used seedling pecans as city street trees with good success.

In contrast to the native groves along rivers and streams, all yard tree production will be harvested, regardless of market prices. Deep-freezes of families, relatives, and friends will be filled with each year’s crop.

Yard trees on the deepest, well drained soil will always grow, bear, and look good. Shallow- or clay-soil yard trees need close attention to irrigation; some water should be applied every week from April to October, but not so much as to have run-off or soil saturated with water. Texas pecan yard trees need lots of space. It is far better to have one healthy tree in a yard then half a dozen which never receive enough water because of crowding. Shade is also a negative force in growing pecan trees. Trees so crowded that the lower limbs are touching, should have 50 percent of the trees removed. Pruning off lower limbs does not correct tree crowding problems.

Zinc foliar sprays and nitrogen fertilizer are needed every spring for good growth and healthy leaves. If water is applied every week from April to October, pecan trees will have healthy foliage until the first fall frost in November or December. Non-grafted seedling trees make the best yard trees, though their nuts will be small and they could take up to 10 years to bear. If a grafted tree is planted, it should be a small-nut variety such as Caddo for the areas of East Texas, the Gulf Coast, and the High Plains. Sioux should be planted in the drier climates of Central, South, and West Texas since it is less likely to suffer over-cropping stress in August and September when the trees’ greatest water requirements occur.

Grass beneath pecan trees should be mowed very close throughout the growing season to insure maximum soil water for the pecans. Sidewalks, foundations, driveways, and other concrete soil covers should be as far away from pecan trees as possible, to insure good root growth and water absorption.

(This article is excerpted from the original article [dated September 21, 1999] which appeared in the November 1999 Horticultural Update.)