Monday, October 18, 2021

Fall pecan tree planting


     Earlier this month, I drove over to Elsberry, Missouri to see my friends at Forrest Keeling Nursery and to pick up some of their container-grown pecan seedlings. This week the weather has been perfect for planting those trees.

    The first step in planting a container-grown tree is to dig a hole about the same depth as the pot (photo at right). I also dig the hole larger than the diameter of the pot which ensures that I have plenty of room to pack soil around the root ball.

      When planting container-grown pecan trees I always check for circling roots that have grown at the bottom of the pot (photo above). Allowing these roots to remain in a tight circle can cause major problems for the tree as it becomes re-established in the orchard.  As the tree grows these circling roots can grow to girdle each other and cause slow tree decline.

    Before planting the tree, I pull large circling roots away from the root ball and prune them off (photo above).  Once the tree starts growing in the orchard, new roots will form at each pruning cut. These new roots will grow straight downwards into the soil and eventually form multiple tap roots.


    Before setting the root ball in the hole, I shake off all loose potting soil. This will expose a lot of the root system's fibrous roots and force them to grow into the surrounding soil (photo at left).  As I fill soil into the hole, I carefully pack soil all around the root ball. By shaking off all loose potting soil, the root ball appears to sit about 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the soil. Once I've filled in all around the sides of the root ball, I'll cover the root system with a 1 to 2 inch layer of soil. Covering the root ball with my native silt loam soil will slow water evaporation from the potting soil that's still clinging to the tree's roots.

     I've learned that these container-grown trees are extremely attractive to deer for browsing. In the past, I've even had deer pull a freshly planted tree out of the ground.  So before moving on to planting another seedling pecan tree, I cover the tree with a cage made of 4" x 2" welded wire fencing that is 4 feet tall (photo at right). To hold the cage in place, I tie it to a steel fence post. You might also note that I used all the loose potting soil that I removed from the root ball as a mulch for the tree.