Spreading Fertilizer on Pecan Trees

Spreading fertilizer on pecan trees


Your test results are in and it’s time to get those trees what they need!




Commercial Fertilization Techniques

The process of getting lime and fertilizer on your trees can vary greatly depending on your situation. If you’re a commercial grower, you’re going to be using some serious equipment, like full-size trucks that can deliver and spread tons of material at a time. You’ll also be using sprayers to apply foliar applications of micronutrients like zinc or boron. You may even use fertigation, which is the process of applying fertilizer to your trees through an irrigation system.


Small Pecan Fertilization Techniques

On the other hand, if you’re a hobby orchard owner or just have a few trees around your property, you can probably get by with a small tractor spreader, something even smaller like a push drop spreader, or a measuring cup and your hands.


What Will You Need?

To figure out what tools you’ll need, you’re going to have to do a little math based on the test results from your soil test or leaf analysis. Then you can see what kind of volume you’ll need. Often the test results give recommendations in terms of amounts needed per acre, but keep in mind you don’t always need to apply nutrients to that whole acre. You only need to apply nutrients to the area the trees’ roots are occupying. In general, a tree’s roots grow out from the trunk into the soil about as far as its branches do in the sky. Depending on the spacing they were planted and the age of your trees, the roots may only cover a small portion of the acre they’re on.


Helpful Examples

Some real-world examples may give a better idea of different scenarios. In Silas’ orchard, the trees are planted on a 60’ spacing (see how far apart should I plant my pecan trees) that works out to 12 trees per acre. His trees are very young, and when he calculated the area their roots cover, it works out to around only 3% of an acre. Although the test results say he needs 2500 lbs. of lime per acre, at this stage of his orchard, he only needs to apply 3% of that to those 12 trees. 3% of 2500 is 75lbs! That’s about 6 ¼ lbs. per tree. He can easily do that by hand with bags of lime bought at the hardware store. He will most likely be able to continue this way for a few more years before moving up to the tractor spreader and having lime delivered in a dump truck.

The next scenario is down the road at the neighbors’ 10-acre orchard and it’s a whole different ball game. Their trees are fully mature, and they have roots growing on most of the ten acres. When the soil test says they need 2000 lbs. of lime per acre, they’re looking at moving 20,000 lbs. of lime to get the job done. You don’t just casually stroll down to the hardware store and throw that in the pickup truck, and you certainly don’t spread it by hand. To deal with that kind of volume you’ll need to get professional equipment involved. A few phone calls or an internet search should easily turn up someone in your area who is equipped to handle this kind of volume. They can deliver the product to your property so you can spread it yourself, or if they have a fertilizer truck, you can pay them to spread it for you.


Fertilization Schedule

Silas’ typical pattern for fertilizing has been to test the soil in the winter and do a leaf analysis in late July to early August. He applies the first round of fertilizer in March just before bud break and again in June or July. This pattern seems to be working well, but he doesn’t have a lot of personal history to judge from. He recommends taking the advice of other successful growers in your area and keeping good notes on what you’ve been doing with your trees so you can make calculated adjustments in the future if needed.

It’s that simple. Get your testing done ahead of time, get equipment that can spread the volume you’ll be dealing with, then get out there and feed those trees what they need!


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