Once you have a good area to grow pecan trees, you need to decide how many you’re going to plant. Let’s talk about spacing.
If you’re just putting pecan trees around your property to enhance the aesthetics, you can use your best judgment. Just remember, mature trees can get up to 60′ in diameter. You’ll want to avoid planting them under power lines or right next to a barn. Also, keep in mind a pecan tree will need a pollinator in order to bear nuts well. This means you’ll need at least two different types on your property. If you’re planting a small orchard, there are two different ways you can go about it.
First, try for maximum yield early on. To achieve this, you’ll need a lot of young trees. A young tree doesn’t have many branches, so you’ll need a lot of trees to cover an acre of land. Let’s say you go with a tight 20 X 20′ spacing, meaning your rows are 20′ apart and within those rows the trees are also 20′ apart. This will allow 109 trees per acre. That’s a lot of trees, so you’ll need to consider that every one of them will need irrigation, fertilizer, and general maintenance. 15 years down the road, they’ll start to grow into each other. You’ll have to remove many of them so the remaining trees will perform at their best.
The second school of thought on how to space your trees is to place them at distances where they’ll be comfortable with each other and perform well when mature. Let’s say you place them in a 60 X 60′ spacing. That will only require 12 trees per acre, which is 97 less trees than the 20 X 20′ spacing. The downside to all the cost and labor savings is it will take several years of waiting for a good nut production to acre ratio.
When it comes to actually laying out your orchard, it might be helpful to use online mapping, a GPS, or phone apps. Silas Dudley, Bag-A-Nut’s President, has a lot of experience with this process. He went with a 60 X 60′ spacing and used string, stakes, a range finder, and a measuring tape. With the help of friends and family it went smoothly.
You may find it helpful to look up the Pythagorean Theorem, a mathematical formula to keep squares and rectangles perfectly shaped. If you take the time to apply that to your layout, you can be sure everything will come out nice and neat. The reason Silas chose the 60 X 60 layout is because it saves a lot of time and labor. “I just chose to be patient, enjoy the beauty of them, and let it ride.”
At the end of the day, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer about which spacing to use in your orchard. It boils down to what you want from your orchard and what you’re willing to put into it.