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How to Take Better Care of Your Mature Pecan Tree

Pecans in shell on tree
Who doesn't love pecans? They're crunchy, tasty, and the key ingredient in desserts like praline candy and pecan pie. If you're lucky enough to have a pecan tree in your backyard, then you get to enjoy these nuts more often than most. But if you want your mature pecan tree to keep producing an abundance of nuts, you need to take good care of it. Here are a few simple ways to take better care of a mature pecan tree.
Fertilize the Tree Each Spring
Pecan trees have extensive root systems and are capable of obtaining nutrients from far below the ground. However, since they are so large and put so many of their resources into producing nuts, they can deplete the soil over time. Once the soil becomes deficient in certain nutrients, the tree may stop producing nuts, and it may also become increasingly prone to fungal diseases and blights.
The best way to fertilize a pecan tree is to conduct a soil test, and then add nutrients to the soil based on the results of the test. If you'd rather skip the soil test, you can estimate by applying a half pound of ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer to the soil surrounding the tree, first in March and again in May. Apply the fertilizer to the drip line, which is the ground directly underneath the tree's widest branches.
Clean up Fallen Leaves and Nuts
Pecan trees can make quite a mess in the autumn when they shed their leaves and nuts. Make sure you clean this fallen debris up regularly. Otherwise, it may become a breeding grounds for fungi, such as those that cause pecan scab. Pecan scab is a disease that causes the leaves to develop dark spots. A heavy infection may cause the tree to shed its nuts early, before they are mature.
Because pecan trees are so large, spraying them with fungicides is difficult. So preventing pecan scab and other diseases is a lot easier than treating them.
Have the Tree Trimmed 
Pecan trees need heavy pruning when they are young to train them to grow in a healthy, attractive shape. Once a pecan tree is mature and established, it does not require such frequent pruning—but that does not mean you should neglect to occasionally trim it.
Having the tree trimmed will promote airflow through the branches, which keeps fungal diseases from setting in. Pruning also removes dead branches so they don't keep leeching valuable nutrients from the tree, resulting in better nut production.
If you choose to trim your own pecan tree, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
  • Remove all branches within five feet of the ground.
  • Eliminate all branches that emerge at more than a 70-degree angle.
  • Cut off any branch that shows signs of disease at least 6 inches from the diseased section.
  • Disinfect your blades with alcohol after cutting a diseased branch and before cutting any other branch.
Because pecan trees are so large and it is so hard to effectively trim the upper branches, most homeowners prefer to hire a professional tree trimming service to do the job.
Install a Squirrel Shield
Squirrels love pecans as much as you do, and they can cause damage to the tree as they climb it in search of nuts. To keep squirrels away, consider wrapping your pecan tree's trunk with a 6-foot-tall section of metal flashing. Squirrels typically won't climb the flashing. If you still notice a lot of squirrels around, consider setting live traps to catch and relocate them.
Employ the tips above and your pecan tree should enjoy a long, productive life. If you are looking for a tree trimming company in the Anderson, Greenville, or Simpsonville areas, contact Seasoned Tree Care.