Facts about growing pecans

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 - 5:57pm

A mature pecan farm.

Since we have access to two pecan groves, one on our extended family's farm, I thought I would share what we have learned about raising them.

1. Pecans need a lot of water. If you plant according to permaculture principles and make sure rainwater gets to them via channels and berms they'll be a lot more productive. On the family farm, those trees near drainage sumps and low spots that collected rainwater do best. Our church property is on an old pecan farm, with most of the trees still producing in between buildings, and its heaviest producer is near a broken, dripping sprinkler head. My father-in-law says that in dry years pecans do not produce all that well.

pecan cluster

2. Green pecans, like the ones above, are not ready to pick. The outer covering turns brown and then covering splits at the point. You can pick them off the tree then if they are low enough but do not try to shell them until the four brown, woody "petals" come off the nut inside, easily.

Some fallen pecans, ready to harvest.

3. Usually you pick the nuts off the ground, quartering the ground under each tree several times as they fall over a period of about a month. Old-timers tell me you pick them ALL up, and burn the bad ones to cut back on plant diseases, especially worms. They used a burn barrel but I found the bad nuts along with the shells from the good ones burn just fine in our airtight wood stove.

Nut Wizard

4. But bending and bending and bending is hard work. And a regular rake just won't work here.  So there is a tool for that. There is something called a Nut Wizard, and you want the Small Nut Wizard for pecans, the one for nuts 1/2" to 2". It just rolls along the ground and picks up the nuts in a ball. Amazing.

Pecan cracker

5. You have to crack them or they will rot in their shells. Cracking pecans is tricky because of their shape. Unless you want cuts on your hands and to be picking broken nutmeats out of shell pieces with a nut picker, you need one of the above-pictured nut crackers. Ours was $17 on Amazon. It also speeds the task up tremendously.

6. After all that work, you don't want your fresh pecans to get moldy but they will unless you preserve them. You preserve raw pecans by one of two methods: freezing or roasting. If freezing them, as always make sure you put the date on the bag or container and use the oldest first. If you roast them, I highly recommend you use some sort of oil or butter since they dry out otherwise. You can use various vegetable oils (not olive) or coconut oil or butter. If you are going to eat them soon I suggest using lightly salted melted butter. Here are recipes.

1 Comment

Quercus bicolor's picture
Quercus bicolor
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 19 2008
Posts: 456
Thank you Wendy

I have two young hardy northern pecan trees I bought from a nursery in Ontario.  They are down the hill about 7-12 feet above the water table in the swamp, so they should get good water.  They are growing well and are now about 8-10' tall.  I'll print out your post and dig it out in a decade or two when they start to produce.

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