Out of all the things that are involved in establishing an orchard, planting the pecan tree is my favorite. If you have pecan trees ordered, that should mean that your sight is cleared, and that you’ve made an informed decision on the where to plant, spacing, and variety of trees that you are about to plant, and hopefully that you’ve made plans to irrigate them. If not, learn about these topics in the linked text.
Some of you out there may be planting seeds, but I suspect most of you are going to plant either potted or bare root trees. Both ways have their pros and cons and I hate to say ones better than another, and as a matter of fact, I planted both potted and bare root on the Bag-A-Nut farm. Here is my blog about Potted vs. Bare Root Pecan Trees in case you are still debating.
One advantage to potted trees is that you can plant them at your own pace and you can pretty much get away with it all year long. If you don’t have a whole weekend to through at planting your trees, go the potted route and just plant a few here and few there as you get time, and eventually you will have it done.
Keep in mind, if you go the potted route, that you need to make sure and fluff out that root ball. That little tree has spent its whole life in that pot and its roots are in there, growing around in circles, like a ball of spaghetti. You need to bust them up and fluff them out so they can start growing away from each other. If you see that the tap root or any other large pieces are curled or growing into another piece just go ahead and snip them off so they can have a chance to grow down straight once you plant them.
If you don’t get potted trees your other option is going to be bare root trees. During the trees dormant season, Dec-march, the tree nursery is going to start pulling those little guys out of there happy little homes in the soil and sending them to their customers. The trees will have some form of gel, saw dust, or something on the roots to keep them moist. Some of these tricks to keep the roots moist are pretty effective, but keep in my mind that you are operating on borrowed time and you need to get your trees planted as soon as you can. Don’t stop off at cousin Charley’s because he has a pig on the smoker, and don’t be taking selfies with every one of your new trees so you can put it on social media! Just get focused and get them in the ground. Well, it may not be that critical, but if takes more than a few days to get to them planted, then you will need to heel them in or take measure to be sure the roots stay moist. If the roots dry out, the tree will probably die.
If you are going to pick your trees up from the nursery, grab a big barrel or a tarp or something like that, which you can put your trees in to protect them. Also, you might want to take a bunch of damp hay or saw dust to pack around the roots.
Whether your planting potted or bare root trees, getting them in the ground is really about the same. Start by digging a hole slightly bigger than the root system. Trim or fluff the roots as needed, put the tree in the hole, and then start filling the hole back in with dirt and water.
Remember, if it’s a potted tree, fluff out the roots and trim any that are curled or ingrown. If it’s a bare-root, don’t be afraid to trim the roots to keep them from pointing back inward or coming out of the top of the hole, and don’t bend that long tap root! Dig a deeper hole or trim it.
When it comes to filling the hole back in, keep an eye on that stained or discolored area that indicates where the tree used to meet the dirt, and try to keep the tree at that same height in its new hole. Trees can develop a lot of problems down the road if they are planted too deep or too shallow. Watch the video at the top of this post, to see exactly what I mean.
I like to use water when I’m filling my holes back in. I feel like the water gets rid of air pockets and forces that soil to go ahead and settle in around the roots so that tree can’t sink any deeper over the next few weeks. You want that tree to stay right at the height you left it.
Quick Tip: I found it helpful to fill a large barrel with water and then work out of it to get the water I need for each individual hole. Also, It was a real sunny day and I was worried that my (bare-rooted) trees where drying out, so I just put them in the barrel to soak while they waited for their turn to be buried.
Some people will form a little donut ring in the soil around the tree so that water is funneled into the root zone. I really don’t get too carried away, but I try and favor the water staying near the tree. Be smart about it, If you have slow draining clay soil don’t make a basin around your tree that will hold water a few days after a big rain because it may drown your tree.
A couple other quick tips: If your planting bare roots, this is a good time to head back your trees if the nursery hasn’t already done it. To head them back, just snip off the stem just above a good bud. Here is my article on Trimming Pecan Trees if you want to learn how.
Another tip would be to just hold off on fertilizing bare root trees for now, if you are seeing good growth by summer time then you can start then.
If you planted potted trees, ask the nursery where you bought them what they recommend as far as fertilizer goes. As for heading them back, If it’s the dormant season I’d say go ahead and do it, but if the tree is really growing well at the time you plant it, I’d probably only trim off a few little branches if I had to cut away a lot of the root growth during the fluffing process. In other words, try to keep the trimming off the branches in proportion to the trimming you do on the root zone.
If you have a lot of deer or rodents around your orchard, I would go ahead and put a grow tube or a protective cage of some sort around your trees. I know adding those things can really drive the cost up so try and think of them as insurance because a few hungry critters can destroy a lot of trees in a single night.
Guys, I hope you found that information helpful. There really isn’t much to planting a pecan tree. Probably the biggest thing I would stress, would be to make you a little game plan before you get started. If you make one and stick to it I bet your going to have a great time planting your trees