Within the Booyong Orchard we have three established Pecan Nut Trees and within the Conservation we have discovered a few large ones in an area that was once a kiwi fruit farm. This area has a variety of native bush tucker plants and will become a native food forest.
Pecans are a deciduous tree that are native to America and begins producing fruit after about 8-10 years. If cared for the trees will can continue to grow for many years. We’re quite fortunate as the trees at Booyong are well established and fruit well when the seasons are favourable.
Pecans require cross-fertilisation to reach full yields, and irrigation in spring and summer is essential for reaching an estimated yield of 20-30kg’s per tree. They are monoecious – meaning they have male and female flowers which open and mature separately. After the tree has matured, watering is essential during the nut filling stage at the end of summer. They like allot of water (9000 litres per week, 1320 litres per day in Spring and Summer) and will send tap roots deep down into the soil to find it.
The tree can grow in a variety or soil types but prefers sandy loam approximately two metres deep. Fertilising with Zinc and nitrogen during the Spring and Summer season has shown to increase yields. The function of zinc is to help the plant produce chlorophyll.
The pecan remains active all year long. During dry seasons the tree will shed it’s crop and have little growth or fruit, this has been the case this year. Alternatively, saturation will result in root rot and can lead to plant death, therefore good soil drainage is important. During times of stress the tree will continue to grow and the nuts will be poorly filled in alternate years.
According to the Australian Pecan Growers association Pecans can grow in a range of soil pH (5-8); desirable levels are pH 5.5 – 6.5 as deficiencies can occur in more acid and alkaline soils. Deep well-draining alluvial soils are considered to provide the best growing condition for trees, with at least 2 metres of soil depth. Although the tap roots may reach 7 metres, most of the tree’s feeder roots occur within the top metre of the soil. It is therefore essential that adequate water and nutrition are provided in this soil zone. Pecans can be grown on heavier soils with higher clay content than alluvial soils, but growth may be restricted and care with irrigation to avoid water logging is critical. Pecans will not tolerate salt in soils, groundwater or irrigation water and care must be taken with the use of animal manures in orchards to ensure no contamination of nuts occurs.
Nitrogen can be provided to pecans by using fertilizer or growing legumes. Green Harvest explain how this is done well. “They do this by forming a symbiotic relationship with a group of bacteria called rhizobium, which live within a specialised structure, called a nodule, on the plant’s roots. The rhizobia can take nitrogen (N2) from the air and convert it to ammonium (NH4), the form of nitrogen plants normally obtain from the soil. This process is called nitrogen fixation. Cool-season legumes such as a red clover white cover mixture can supply some or all the nitrogen a native pecan tree will need without competing with the tree for soil moisture and nutrients during the growing season. In addition, legumes attract beneficial insects and are excellent forage for the chickens”.
Prune the pecan tree during the late winter months, removing excess branches, dead wood or low hanging branches. Ensure the base of the tree is mulched and weeded.
Pecans do not like Potash.
Pecans are ready for harvest from March, as they did for us at Booyong the first year. The shucks open when they are ready. You can also shake the tree so hey fall to the ground, but don’t leave them their to get water logged or split. It’s all about timing, you just need to get them before the birds and possums. I used the vice in the garage to assist me in removing the husks and was amazed to discover it worked. I got black stained fingers from the juices within the husk, which lasted for nearly two weeks. Not a pretty sight I assure you, so next time I’ll be sure to wear gloves.
Pecans are less bitter and sweeter than a walnut. They have many uses and can be used in slices, cakes, soups, ice cream, candies and salads. They are lovely candied in maple syrup and placed in a salad.
2016 – Great crop of Pecans
2017 – Summer no nuts due to hail storm when flowering
2018 – No Nuts due to lack of rain
2019 – Summer no nuts due to drought