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Savoring the Holidays

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IF YOU ARE from the South, you know one of the most popular holiday ingredients is the pecan. It is used to make sweet desserts (pecan pie, pralines, bourbon pecan balls) and savory favorites (pecan stuffing, green bean-pecan casserole, pecan topped trout). But do you have a pecan tree in your own garden? If not, now would be the perfect time to begin your orchard! Yes, I said orchard because the pecan is really a drupe or fruit with a single stone surrounded by a husk. Pecan trees that occur from natural beginnings would be called a grove and these trees are native to North America. When planted by humans, we would label them an orchard. They are members of the hickory genus and will become a very large tree over time. A ten-year-old sapling will be about 16-feet tall, but at full maturity could measure 131 feet in height with a 39- to 75-foot spread. For this reason, you must have ample space on your property to plant one of these trees. Here are some essential tips for your successful endeavor into the world of pecans:

• Plant the tree at least 20 feet away from any structures of your home.

• Check the variety when you purchase your young pecan. Recommended varieties for this area are Candy, Elliott, Sumner, Melrose, Houma, Oconee and Caddo.

• 4–5 feet in height or smaller is the recommended size for your new tree.

• Water the newly purchased tree over night by placing the root system in a bucket of warm water.

• Choose a well-drained section of the garden that also gets good light. Pecan trees need lots of nutrients from the soil so plant away from competitors.

• The hole for planting should be larger and deeper than the root ball and should be firm at the bottom. Use good organic topsoil to hold moisture around the roots and tamp the fill to eliminate settling.

• Mulch well around the planting to retain moisture.

• Soak new plantings with water once a week for the first few weeks. The time can be extended to 10 days gradually but the first few years need that weekly saturation.

• Fertilize late in the spring or summer following planting. A young tree needs time to develop its root system.

It may take 5 years before you get your first crop of fruit. The leaves make the food that produce the nuts and it takes 40 leaflets to make a single pecan. Patience, yes, but well worth the effort! Savor your pecan experience by going online to learn about this unique, native wonder and don’t forget to be thankful for all of Nature’s special gifts during the 2015 Holiday season!

Email your gardening questions and comments to Lisa at [email protected].

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