Saturday, October 17, 2020

Fertilizing pecan trees in the Fall

      Long time readers of this blog will remember that I like to make two applications of fertilizer to my pecan trees each year. The first is applied in early spring when buds first show signs of swelling. The second application is made in the Fall, usually in early October. This year I delayed the Fall application until today based on soil conditions and weather predictions (photo at right). I applied a complete fertilizer containing N, P and K.

    During the first half of October, the weather has been unseasonably warm and the soil bone dry. Spreading nitrogen fertilizer under these conditions would result in massive losses of nitrogen from volatilization. So I've been waiting and closely watching the weather forecast. Today, the wind blew hard all day with the approach of a cold front that promises to drop our temperatures and give us a good chance of rain. If we get about a quarter inch of rain tomorrow, all the fertilizer I spread today should get washed in.

    One frequent question I receive concerns the fertilization of young trees. Many folks like to hand fertilizer young trees by spreading fertilizer in a circle around the tree. The thought is to fertilize just the tree and not all the ground cover between trees. On my farm, I broadcast fertilizer over the entire pecan planting (photo above) regardless of tree size. Sure, broadcasting fertilizer will stimulate the ground cover but I view that as beneficial. Every time I mow the pecan grove, I'm adding valuable organic matter to the soil. Soil organic matter increases water retention and increases the availability of essential micro-nutrients. In addition, the rotting grass clippings release significant amounts of N, P and K back into the soil (nutrient recycling). Over the long term, my objective is to develop a healthy soil environment  which promotes active pecan root growth. With healthy roots, I'll maximize the productivity of my pecan trees.