A common question I am asked is: Do pecan trees need fertilizer and, if so, when is the best time to apply it?
Fertilizer is one of the most important things needed to produce pecans.
Normally, in a commercial producing grove, the growers use a leaf analysis and soil test to tell them exactly what a pecan tree needs.
However, in the home yard a leaf sample is often not possible for just one tree.
Take a soil test if at all possible. The soil sample needs to be taken from around the dripline of the tree. Only a few ounces of soil is needed from each tree.
When fertilizing pecan trees, try to make sure the tree grows at least 6 inches per year at the ends of the branches. This is important if the tree is to produce a good crop.
Without a leaf analysis or soil test, broadcast 4 pounds of a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 8-8-8 for each inch of trunk diameter measured at 4 feet above the soil level.
Timing is important: Apply it in mid-to late-February.
Spread the fertilizer under the dripline of the tree because this is where the majority of the feeder roots are on the pecan tree.
If you don't have a soil test, you may want to provide the tree with zinc.
Again, the soil test or leaf analysis will indicate exactly how much zinc the tree needs.
Without these tests, it is a good idea to apply zinc-sulfate at the rate of 1 pound for young trees and 3-5 pounds for large trees.
The soil test will also give pH.
Pecan trees like a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 to assure that all elements are available for the tree.
Remember, a soil sample is the best way to determine the true need of your pecan tree.
Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.