Growing your own food, usually vegetables or fruit, is an increasingly popular activity, but there is one food that is often overlooked – nuts. Yet these healthy foods are very easy to grow at home, and the trees they grow on are attractive in their own right – so why not plant one? Of all the nuts we eat, the pecan is top of the list for flavor and health, and a pecan tree is easy to grow, and even delivers the nuts right at your feet – it couldn’t be easier. Imagine simply picking up bags and bags of delicious and healthy nuts right in your own garden – and think of the savings, because nuts are healthy for sure, but they also have a healthy price tag.
The Southern Pecan Tree is a tall shade tree, and is America’s only native nut tree, growing in time to 75 feet tall and 40 feet across. Old trees can surpass 100 feet in height and be 70 feet across. So while this is not a tree for a small, urban garden, it is a beautiful and useful choice for a larger garden, without even considering the bounty of beautiful pecans you will be harvesting from it within just a few years of planting.
Growing Southern Pecan Trees
This is a fast-growing tree, adding several feet a year, so that within a few years you will have a 15-foot tree beginning to carry its first nuts. This handsome tree has a thick, upright trunk, which develops deeply-furrowed dark gray bark as it matures. The leaves are large, about 18 inches long, but they don’t look that way, because each leaf consists of about 15 leaflets, each around 5 inches long. The tree has a tall, rounded crown, and the leaves turn a rich yellow color in the fall. The sturdy branches create an attractive winter silhouette.
Plant your Southern Pecan Tree in full sun, in any moist, well-drained soil. This tree grows large, and it should be planted in an open space where it can mature over the years. It grows best in deep, rich soil, but it will grow well in most situations. It does enjoy plenty of water, especially when young, and this will also help develop the best crop. In the wild it grows along river banks, so it is an ideal choice if you are on a river, stream or lake.
Harvesting Your Pecans
About now most people start to wonder if they are going to need to climb this large tree to harvest the nuts, but no, when the pecans are ready they simply fall to the ground, and all that is needed is to pick them up. It couldn’t be easier. You will know that your tree is about to start growing nuts when you see the flowers in spring. They can be easily overlooked, but in April or May, after the leaves emerge, you will see bunches of 4-inch long green structures called catkins. Some of these will create the nuts, which grow steadily over the summer, before falling to the ground for harvesting.
Storing Your Pecans
After you have harvested your nuts, you will need to store them. A small crop can be shelled, and the nuts placed in the refrigerator, where they will last several weeks. Larger crops should be stored in the shell, in cloth bags, not plastic ones. The easiest way is to place them in the freezer, where they will last for months and months. To store them at room temperature they need first to be dried, which takes 3 or 4 weeks in the sun, or in a warm, dry room. Once dry they will store for a year, until the next harvest. It really is that easy.
History and Origins of the Southern Pecan Tree
The pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) grows from Illinois to Mexico, following the courses of the major river, such as the Mississippi. Native Americans harvested it and the name ‘pecan’ is Algonquin for a nut that needs a stone to open it. Early settlers were excited to find this rich food source growing wild, and trees were widely planted, to supplement the harvest from wild trees.
The pecan industry developed most around New Orleans, because the Southern Pecan differs from northern varieties by having a thinner shell, making shelling much easier, and the climate is ideal for this tree. Although you can grow the pecan tree in zone 5, it will be less reliable in producing ripe nuts, because pecans need 200 days from the last spring frost to the first fall one, and they do best in the heat and humidity of warmer zones. So we recommend this tree for zones 6 to 9.
Our Southern Pecan Trees are grown from quality seed collected from the best trees, and they are vigorous growers. The interest in producing food at home means that demand for these trees is high, and stocks are limited. Order now to enjoy your very own pecans, right from your own garden.