Thursday, November 12, 2015

Growing Pecan Trees Without Watering In Texas

The pecan tree, Carya Illinoinensis,  is of course the Texas state tree.  This tree is large, stately, and can be very prolific in its nut production.  There are varieties of pecan that are well suited for every part of Texas, seen below.


Varieties of pecan for different regions of Texas - from Aggie Extension Service - an excellent source of information about pecan growing, found here

 The pecan tree, once established, is drought tolerant. Unfortunately, the pecan tree can be very slow growing due to its need to develop a significant root system.  The pecan's tap root, actually, is what makes it so resistant to drought, but also what makes it so hard to become established.

There is a device that will help in establishing pecan trees, provided the purchased trees are not yet too large.  (Note: always buy grafted pecan trees if you want nuts in your lifetime - our recommended sources are Willis Orchard and Stark Brothers).  A device called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon (hereafter just "the Waterboxx"), provides consistent moisture to the long tap root of the growing pecan tree, all without irrigation or electricity.  The Waterboxx works as explained in the video below.



Pecan trees can be planted with the Waterboxx as follows.  A deep, narrow hole is dug for the pecan roots - just as deep as the pecan roots and no deeper.  It is easiest to use an auger if doing this with many trees.  If an auger is used, be sure to scrape the sides of the hole with a serrated edge (a soil knife is best) to loosen the dirt there and prevent root spiraling.  Nearer to the surface, a wider but shallower hole, 20 inches across and approximately 5 inches deep, is dug.  Approximately 10 gallons of water with any desired fertilizer is then added to the hole.  This was is allowed to trickle down over the next few hours so no water is left in the hole when the plant is inserted.  Once all water has percolated into the soil, the pecan with its large taproot is inserted into the deep central hole.  This is then filled with soil - either native or potting soil.  You can also insert mycorrhizae (helpful fungus to absorb water and nutrients) in this soil if you like. The assembled Waterboxx is then inserted over the pecan - the central 'Figure 8' opening allowing space for the trunk of the pecan tree.

A schematic view of the Waterboxx

The Waterboxx is then filled with about 4 gallons of water.  This water, stored in the green reservoir, will be replenished with morning dew, transpiration moisture from the tree, as well as occasional rainfall.  In fact, it takes only 4 inches of rain to completely refill the Waterboxx (even though the Waterboxx is 10 inches tall).

The pecan tree will now be completely self-sufficient regarding water for at least the next year.  You only need to visit the tree to make sure it is not growing too fast (as you will need to eventually remove the Waterboxx).  You want to remove the Waterboxx (by pulling it straight up over the tree) before the tree crown gets too large to fit through the figure 8 central opening - usually about one year after planting.  The pecan tree by then should have a deep tap root, resistant to almost all drought. The pecan tree potentially may not need manually watered ever again.  If you are growing for commercial reasons, a irrigation system may eventually be required to get the best nut harvest depending on your part of Texas and average rainfall amounts.

The Waterboxx can be reused after the first year (for up to ten years) so many successive plantings of pecans or other trees can be done.  You can buy the Waterboxx here.

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