Whether it be a single tree in your landscape, or an orchard of pecan trees, yearly application of the right nutrients will improve both the quantity of pecans produced, and the size of the nuts. Equally as important as fertilization is water and Zinc. Proper fertilization, watering and applications of Zinc can mean the difference between a few nuts, and a bumper crop.
Fertilizing Pecan Trees
There is debate among experts as to how much fertilizer a mature pecan tree actually needs. Some recommend up to 50 pounds or more of fertilizer per tree. While these amounts won't harm a mature pecan tree, it may not be necessary to apply such large amounts. Other experts suggest from their own experience that this amount can be reduced by 50 percent or more if ample water is supplied. So, if you have a free source of water, it may be more economical to supply your pecan trees with ample water, verses dumping large amounts of high-cost fertilizer around them. Which method is more economical might depend on where you live, and the cost of water compared to fertilizer.
What Pecan Fertilizer To Use
The main thing pecan trees need to produce nuts is nitrogen (the first number in fertilizer). If you are growing a tree or two in your yard, 10-10-10 might be a sutiable fertilizer for you, but you'll need to apply Zinc seperately. Many nursery and garden centers, or feed and seed stores, offer a specialty Pecan Tree Fertilizer that will also contain the Zinc your tree or two will need. This fertilizer can be tossed out by hand, or spread with a small push-type rotary spreader.
If you are growing an orchard of pecan trees, and looking to make a profit, you'll probably want to use Ammonium Sulphate, which is typically accepted as the suitable fertilizer by most pecan tree farmers. Ammonium Sulfate can be bought in bulk form, or in bags. If you decide to purchase your fertilizer in bulk, you'll have to have a way to spread it. Usually, the places that sell bulk fertilizers have commercial spreaders available for lease. These commercial spreaders will work fine if your trees are 20 to 30' more in height. But if your trees are younger and smaller, commercial spreaders may sling out fertilizer in areas between the rows that won't be accessible by your trees. So, rather than waste fertilizer on the grass and weeds that grow between the rows of smaller trees, use a lawn fertilizer spreader. This puts the fertilizer exactly where it will benefit the tree. For newly planted pecan trees, spreading fertilizer by hand works well enough.
How Much Fertilizer To Apply On Pecan Trees
As a general rule, use 3/4 to 1 pound of fertilizer per 1 foot height of your pecan tree, per season. You'll want to break the application of fertilizer into two apllications, as described in the next paragraph. You'll also want to apply zinc sulphate, as described further below.
When To Fertilize Pecan Trees
The best time to fertilize your pecan trees is just after your trees have come out of dormancy in the Spring. Fertilizer applied too early can be washed away or leeched too deeply into the soil for your pecan trees roots to easily pick it up when they break out of dormancy. Apply half the amount of fertilizer you intend to use about a month or so prior to what is typically the last frost date. Try to time this application just prior to rainfall, but not if the forecast is for torential rainfall. Spread the other half of fertilizer about a 30-45 days after the first application, but no later than the end of May. Fertilization timing for pecan trees is very important and varies from one region to another. It's a good idea to consult with your Local Extension Agent to find out what is the best time to fertilize pecan trees in your area. Or better yet, talk to a local pecan tree farmer.