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Plant Manual for Colby Pecan

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Plant Description

Perfect for pecan pie. This tree grows quickly and bears earlier than most varieties. Produces bushels of meaty, thin-shelled nuts. Heat-tolerant. Bears in 5-7 years. Ripens in late September to early October. Grafted. Best pollinators: Stark® Surecrop™ or Starking® Hardy Giant™.

Acclimate

Plants grown in a greenhouse must be acclimated carefully before planting or placing them outdoors. This is especially true in hot or sunny locations. Many species should never be grown in full sun. Before purchasing a plant, learn about its sun requirements. Knowing the plants requirements can avoid any damage to the plant by incorrectly giving it the wrong conditions.

If your plant has been grown in a greenhouse, here are a few steps we recommend you follow:

  • After purchasing your plant, place it outside in a sheltered, shady spot or on your back porch.
  • Leave it there for 3-4 hours and gradually increase the time spent outside by 1-2 hours per day.
  • Bring the plants back indoors each night.
  • Water it regularly to keep the plant moist.
  • Occasionally spray the leaves with water.
  • After 2-3 days, move the plants from their shady spot into morning sun, returning them to the shade in the afternoon.
  • After 7 days, the plants should be able to handle the outdoor temperatures, if they stay around 50 degress F.
  • After 7-10 days, your plant is ready to be planted in its permanent location. Try to do this on a cloudy day and be sure to water the plant well.
  • Observe foliage daily. If any type of leaf discoloration occurs, put the plant back into filtered light and attempt this step at a later date.
  • Special care must be taken to avoid burning the leaves.

These are general guide recommendations. Some plants take longer than others to acclimate.

Location

The best way to succeed is to plan before you plant. Let’s discuss location: Do you know where you want to plant your new nut trees? Avoid many future problems by considering all aspects of the planting spot, such as:

  • Cross-pollination
  • Sun and good soil
  • Check out the surroundings
  • Space wisely
  • Leave space for future planting

Cross-Pollination

Is a pollinator variety present? Cross-pollination by a different variety, of the same type of tree, is key to the success of many nut trees. In most cases, its absence is why trees don’t bear nuts or produce poorly. Some nut trees are self-pollinating, but will yield a larger crop if pollinated with another variety.

Sun and Good Soil

Your tree would love a sunny place with well-drained, fertile soil. But it will be quite satisfied with six to eight hours of sunlight. Good drainage is required to keep your trees “happy.” If your soil has high clay content, use our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium or add one-third peat to the soil at planting time.

Surroundings

If you’d like your tree to become a landscaping asset, choose the planting place with this in mind. Imagine it as a full-grown tree and check everything out: Wires overhead? Sidewalk underneath? Does it obstruct something you want to see? Can you keep an eye on it from the house? Will other trees be in the way, allowing for their additional growth in the meantime?
Even a year or two after planting, your tree will be very difficult to transplant. So take the time to plant it in just the right place.

Space Wisely

We are asked about recommended planting distances from patios, sewer lines, water pipes and so on. Ordinarily, patios will not be a problem because the soil beneath them will be dry and compacted. Therefore, the roots will not grow into this area as much. You might not expect sewer and water lines to be affected since they are buried so deeply. But, since sewer and water lines tend to be wet, roots will grow to them and around them if the tree is planted too close. By planting your trees far enough away from these items, you can avoid this problem.

Space for Future Plantings

Once you’ve found out firsthand about the goodness of growing nuts, you’ll want to expand your home orchard. It’s important to plan for tree spacing so that the future growth areas will be ready when you are.

Planting

Successfully establishing a young nut tree in your yard starts with your planting site and method. Once a tree is established, it needs little assistance to grow and produce; but you’ll want to make sure you give your tree the best foundation possible.

Nut trees require fertile soil for good growth, so before you plant, check your soil nutrients and pH. Contact your local County Extension Office for information about soil testing in your area, or purchase one of our digital meters for quick and accurate results. Take a soil sample to determine any additional lime and fertilizer needs. Lime is not generally recommended for pecan trees when the soil pH is above 6. A very high pH is more likely to cause problems with mineral uptake than a low pH.

Planting

  • Space your pecan trees 40’ to 70’ apart.
  • Dig a hole wide and deep enough to accommodate the root system.
  • Wet the roots thoroughly before planting.
  • Many nut trees have just one main root, almost like a giant skinny carrot. This is called the taproot.
  • The taproot of a seedling pecan tree should be pruned before planting. Prune this root back by one-third to one-half. If your tree is potted, no root pruning is required.
  • Spread the roots out in the hole to prevent matting.
  • Plant at the same depth as they were grown at the nursery. Bare root trees will have a noticeable color difference between the roots and the trunk--plant at the depth of this color difference. Place a potted tree the same depth it was growing in the pot.
  • Refill hole with enhanced soil. Tamp soil firmly about roots as you add each shovel of dirt.
  • When hole is ¾ full, add two buckets of water.
  • DO NOT fertilize your pecan tree at planting time— they are especially sensitive. Wait at least 30 days before fertilizing. (If planting in the fall, wait to fertilize until spring for best results.)
  • Finish filling hole.

After Planting

  • Prune your new bare root tree by cutting off at least one-third to one-half of the top (but not below the bud/graft union). This is essential. This forces your tree to grow a strong sprout that will become the main trunk. Take our word for it: severe pruning at planting time gets your new tree off to the best possible start. Potted nut trees do not need pruning.
  • Paint trunk with a white latex paint and/or wrap trunk within 4” of top using Stark® Tree Guards to prevent rodent injury and sun scald.
  • Mulch about June 1. Keep all weeds away from trees the first few years with mulch or regular cultivation.

Soil Preparation

Preparing your soil before you plant will greatly improve your tree’s performance and promote healthy, vigorous growth. It is a good idea to have your soil tested to determine if it is lacking in any essential minerals and nutrients. This can be done through your County Extension Office or with one of our digital meters.

The goal of soil preparation is to replenish vital minerals and nutrients, as well as break up and loosen any compacted soil.

When To Prepare Your Soil

Soil preparation can be done at any time that the ground is not too wet or frozen. Your trees may be planted even when temperatures are quite cool. If a hard frost is expected, it is advisable to delay planting for a while until temperatures become more moderate. Generally, as long as your soil is workable, it is fine to plant.

How To Prepare Your Soil

  • Roots grow faster when they’re spread out. Dig the hole deep and wide enough so the root system has plenty of room to easily expand. Keep the topsoil in a separate pile so you can put it in the bottom of the hole, where it’ll do the most good.
  • To loosen the soil, mix dehydrated cow manure, garden compost or peat moss (up to 1/3 concentration) into your pile of topsoil. Make sure the peat moss you get is either baled sphagnum or granular peat. You can also add our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium or 2 or more inches of organic material and work in evenly with the existing soil.

Your lawn can provide you with ideal organic materials such as grass clippings and shredded leaves. Not only will the grass and leaves break down to provide soil nutrients, but they will help loosen the soil as well. You can gather these in the fall with spring planting in mind.

Common soil amendments:

  • compost
  • sand
  • manure
  • lime
  • peat moss

Adding organic materials, such as our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium and compost will improve most every soil type. Organic materials bind sandy soil particles so they retain moisture and nutrients better. They also break apart clay and silt particles, so that water can infiltrate and roots can spread.

Soil Types

  • Clay and silt soils are made of very small particles. They feel slick and sticky when wet. Clay and silt hold moisture well, but resist water infiltration, especially when they are dry. Often puddles form on clay or silt soils, and they easily become compacted.
  • Loam soil is a mix of sand, silt or clay, and organic matter. Loam soils are loose and look rich. When squeezed in your fist, moist loam will form a ball, which crumbles when poked with a finger. Loam soils normally absorb water and store moisture well. Loam soils can be sandy or clay based, and will vary in moisture absorption and retention accordingly.
  • Sandy soils contain large particles that are visible to the unaided eye, and are usually light in color. Sand feels coarse when wet or dry, and will not form a ball when squeezed in your fist. Sandy soils stay loose and allow moisture to penetrate easily, but do not retain it for long-term use.

Fertilizing

In early spring on a periodic basis start applying small amounts of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Do not fertilize after July because the rapid new growth can make your tree subject to frost damage later in the year.

As your pecan trees begin to come into bearing age, it is essential to provide Zinc Sulphate as a feed during the spring. Zinc is necessary for normal tree growth and the development of the nuts.

Insects and Diseases

Every tree has the future potential for disease and insect damage. Factors such as location and weather will play a part in which issues your tree encounters. If available, disease-resistant trees are the best option for easy care; and for all trees, proper maintenance (such as watering, fertilizing, pruning, spraying, weeding, and fall cleanup) can help keep most insects and diseases at bay.

Crown Gall

Trees appear stunted and slow growing; leaves may be reduced in size, little or no fruit. If tree is dead, inspect roots for hard, woody ‘tumors’. Note: many things can cause stunted trees.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Scab

Appear as small circular, olive-green spots that turn black on new leaves, leaf petioles and nut shuck tissue. Lesions expand and may coalesce, then fall out giving a shot hole appearance. Early infections may cause premature nut drop, but more commonly cause shuck to stick to nut surface (stick tights). Late infections can prevent nuts from fully expanding and decrease nut size.

Natural Control

  • Serenade® Garden Disease Control
  • Bonide® Citrus, Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray

Aphids

They are the size of a pinhead and vary in color depending on the species. Cluster on stems and under leaves, sucking plant juices. Leaves then curl, thicken, yellow and die. Produce large amounts of a liquid waste called “honeydew”. Aphid sticky residue becomes a growth media for sooty mold.

Natural Control

  • Bonide® Insecticidal Soap
  • Bonide® Citrus, Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray

Pecan Nut Casebearer

Eggs are minute and change from white to pink. Larvae change from olive-gray to gray-brown and measure 1/2”, reddish brown head and sparsely covered with fine, white hairs. Adult moths are slate-gray with ridge of long, dark scales on laser end of forewings. They are 1/3” long with wingspan of almost an inch.
Larvae leave cocoon (located at junction of bud and stem) in early spring about time buds open, feed for about 2 weeks on exterior of opening buds. Then bore into tender shoots where they mature. Late May to early June, about time for pollination to occur, adults emerge and lay eggs on young nuts. 8-9 days later eggs hatch and larvae bore into nuts at stem end. Infested nuts are held together by frass and webbing and larvae feed inside nut for 3-4 weeks, pupates and 2nd generation of adults emerge in mid-July (in Missouri) and the cycle is repeated. A third generation of adults emerges in late August and September and larvae feed in nut shuck and on the leaves.
First generation is most damaging. Treat when all catkins have fallen and tips of nuts turn brown (after pollination), early June in Missouri. Timing is important and varies from year to year and from area to area.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Brown Leaf Spot

This is common in southern areas with high rainfall and neglected orchards. Reddish-brown spots often with gray rings. Can cause early leaf drop in fall, weakening tree.

Natural Control

  • Serenade® Garden Disease Control

Powdery Mildew

Appears as whitish-gray powdery mold or felt-like patches on leaves and nuts. Leaves may fall off early and on nuts, shucks split and kernels shrivel.

Natural Control

  • Serenade® Garden Disease Control
  • Bonide® Citrus, Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray

Borers

Appears as a thick, gummy substance (SAP) leaking from round holes on the trunk or in crotch of the tree. Worms with brown heads and cream-colored bodies tunnel through trunk that will kill the tree. Once infested, use a fine wire to try to mash them or dig them out.

Natural Control

  • Dig out with thin wire or mash

Chemical Control

  • Bonide® Borer-Miner Killer

Sticky Shuck

During nut development when water begins to fill the nut. Part of the shuck turns black; nuts will not be completely filled.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Fall Webworm

Damage the leaves by both feeding and web building. Webworms over-winter within cocoons located in protected places, such as crevices in bark or under debris and fences. Adult moths emerge in summer. They have a wingspan of about 1 1/4" and vary from pure satiny white to white thickly spotted with small dark brown dots. Females lay white masses of 400-500 eggs on the undersides of the leaves. The caterpillars hatch in 10 days and all from the same egg mass live together as a colony. They spin webs that enclose the leaves, usually at the end of a branch, to feed upon them. After they have defoliated a branch, they extend their nest to include additional foliage.
When caterpillars are mature, they leave the nest to seek a place to spin gray cocoons. The mature caterpillars are about 1 1/4" long with a broad dark brown stripe along the back, and yellowish sides thickly peppered with small blackish dots. Each segment is crossed by a row of tubercles with long light brown hairs.

Natural Control

  • Bonide® Captain Jack’s™ Deadbug Brew
  • Bonide® Thuricide Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT)
  • Remove web with rack and burn or prune out

Pecan Weevil

Larvae are creamy-white grubs, C-shaped with reddish-brown heads and 1/2” long. Adult moths are light brown to gray and are about 1/2” long. The adult emerges as early as July 15 (Missouri), feed on nuts before they are completely formed, causing them to shrivel, the nut blacken and drop. Nuts may show a tiny, dark puncture wound extending through the shuck and unhardened shell. If larvae is found inside the nut before the shell hardens, indicates damage from other insect, usually nut curculio or hickory shuck worm.
The adult lays 2-4 eggs in separate pockets within each kernel. Grubs hatch in late August and feed for about a month then exit thru a hole about 1/8” beginning in late September. Pecan weevils remain in larval stage for 1-2 years 4-12” underground. They pupate in early autumn and become adults in about 3 weeks. The adults remain in the soil until the following summer. Complete life cycle is 2-3 years. Do not move very far from the tree under which they emerge, so certain trees may be infested while trees nearby are not bothered. Can be controlled with insecticide, but ours are not recommended.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Pecan Phylloxera

Appears as a small aphid-like insect that is seldom seen, but produces galls that are easily visible. Severe infestations cause malformed, weakened shoots that finally die and can even kill entire limbs. The insect over winters as eggs in the dead body of female adult in protected places on the branches of pecan trees. After bud break the eggs hatch and the insects feed on opening buds or leaf tissue. These are known as ‘stem mothers’. Their feeding stimulates the development of galls, which enclose the insect in a few days. The stem mother matures inside the gall and lays eggs, which emerge in mid-summer as adults and continue the cycle. Only need to treat when galls are in large numbers on shoots or nuts.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Nut Curculio

Adults are dark-gray to reddish-brown, 3/16” long, larvae are legless, creamy-white, 3/16” long and found within immature pecans. The adults attack immature pecans from mid-July to mid-August. Make punctures in the shucks where they deposit an egg. Eggs hatch in 4-5 days and the larvae feed for 10-14 days. This causes a bleeding of brown sap on the shuck and also premature nut drop. Larvae exit from a small hole and enter the soil. Adult emerges 4 weeks later, in September and October and over winters in ground trash.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Hickory Shuckworm

Adult moths are dark-gray nocturnal flyers, 3/8” long. Larvae are creamy-white with brownish heads, 3/8” long. Pupae, found within the shuck, are dark brown and up to 1/3” long. When larvae feed in the interior of the nut, mid-July until shell hardening in mid-August, premature nut drop can occur. Larvae pupate in the nuts and third generation moths emerge in early August. Damage from Hickory Shuck worms can be eliminated if insecticide sprays can control these moths.

Natural Control

  • Bonide® Captain Jack’s™ Deadbug Brew

Caterpillar is ¾ inch long, reddish orange to yellow. Adult moths have irregular, silver gray and black forewings and legs, snout like at front of the head. Eggs are white at first and later orange before hatching. Larvae are reddish orange then vary from milky white to pink. Pupae are light to dark brown. Larvae bore into nutmeat and later consume most of the nut. Producing large amounts of webbing and a fine powdery residue. They will over winter in mummy nuts in tree or on the ground.

Natural Control

  • Bonide® Captain Jack’s™ Deadbug Brew

Chemical Control

  • Bonide® Borer-Miner Killer

Peach Twig Borers

Adults of this insect are clearwing moths, metallic blue to black in color with bright bands of orange or yellow. They are about 13 mm long with wings folded and their forewings have a black apical band. Larvae are about 18 mm long, white with brown heads.
Symptoms:

  • Build up of reddish brown frass and gummy exudates known as gummosis. Check branch crotches on larger branches or upper trunk.
  • Heavy infestation may cause branch dieback.
  • Young tree maybe girdled and killed older trees may be weakened.

Natural Control

  • Bonide® Captain Jack’s™ Deadbug Brew

Chemical Control

  • Bonide® Borer-Miner Killer

Rosette

Rosette disease is caused by zinc deficiency. Leaves will be small and uneven shapes and become yellow or spotted. If disease progress the pecan nuts can also be affected. There will be an over abundance of smaller branches form, which results in growth of the leaf shoots in tight bunches.

  • Hi-Yield® Zinc Sulfate

Pruning

Most potted pecan trees need very little initial pruning, but as the trees get older, corrective pruning may be necessary. Keep these pointers in mind:

  • When the tree is dormant, corrective pruning consists of removing broken, interfering, dead, or disease branches.
  • After cutting, seal the cut. Use a plain white latex paint over the open grain. This will seal the cut and prevent fungi or infection from developing on the cut wood.
  • Remove branches that are growing toward the middle of the tree.
  • If any branches are crossing, remove one of them.
  • Prune low limbs that may interfere with sprays or irrigation.
  • Remove limbs and vigorous shoots growing through the center, to allow light and air to penetrate.
  • In the early years, if secondary limbs show narrow angles, you should remove them.

Spraying

A proper and consistent spray schedule is important to the survival of your trees. From diseases to pests, many potential issues can be prevented with spraying before they even begin! To reap its benefits, spraying should be done consistently and thoroughly following the guidelines below.

Before you begin, read and follow all instructions on labels.

General Maintenance

  • Hi-Yield® Zinc Sulfate is critical for growing pecan trees. Low soil levels of zinc stunt tree growth and cause malformed nuts. Start applying in early spring.

Natural Control

  • Serenade® Garden Disease Control for scab, leaf spot and powdery mildew.

When To Spray

During hull split

  • Bonide® Borer-Miner Killer for navel orangeworms and peach twig borers.

After pollination when tip of nutlets turn brown

  • Hi-Yield® Zinc Sulfate for rosette.

At the First Sign of:

  • Bonide® Insecticidal Soap for aphids.
  • Bonide® Captain Jack’s™ Deadbug Brew for webworms, shuckworms, navel orangeworm and peach twig borer (not for use on large trees).
  • Bonide® Citrus, Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray for scab, aphids and powdery mildew.
  • Bonide® Thuricide® Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) for fall webworms.

Watering

Regarding pecans, some say that “rain doesn't count, water your pecan even if adequate rains fall.” It is hard to water pecans too much, but remember the following guidelines:

  • Only water once per week.
  • Water should penetrate at least three feet.
  • Younger trees need less water than larger, established pecans.

Harvesting

Are you ready to enjoy delicious homegrown nuts? Harvest is the time to enjoy the results of your hard work. Keep a few things in consideration as you reap the the benefits of your labor: the best time to pick nuts from your tree, and how to store the nuts.

When to Harvest

Harvest pecans in early September through November when they have fallen from the trees. Start your harvest in 3-8 years depending on the variety and growing conditions. Watch for a substantial portion of the husks to have split and opened and the shell to turn brown before gathering. Since wet weather can be harmful to the nuts, pick them up when they begin to drop.

Pecan trees tend towards a biennial bearing cycle, with a heavy crop one year followed by a light crop the next.

Storage

Generally pecans can be stored in a cool, dry place for several months. If stored in the refrigerator or freezer they will last longer. Depending on how you store them, unshelled or shelled and at what temperatures how long they will keep. The nuts will improve in quality as they cure. Do not skip the curing step, if not cured pecans will not crack properly and are difficult to shell. Freezing will stop the curing process. Shell a few to test if the drying process is complete. Bend the kernels until they break, if you hear a sharp snap, pecans have dried enough. If you don’t hear that snap continue drying.


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Bare-root Trees

Trees that are shipped without soil to ensure good contact with soil in your yard. When shipped, they are about 3-4' tall with 3/8" or larger trunk diameter. When they mature, they will be one of three sizes*:

Dwarf

Matures to be about 8-10' tall and wide. Provides an abundance of full-size fruit.

Semi-Dwarf

Matures to be about 12-15' tall and wide. Gives maximum fruit yield per square foot.

Standard

Matures to be about 15-25' tall and 20' wide. A multi-purpose fruit and shade tree.

Stark Supreme Tree®

Top-grade, bare-root trees that give you a head start on growing. When shipped, they are about 4-5' tall with 5/8" or larger trunk diameter.

EZ Start® Potted Trees

Trees in bottomless pots that allow some roots to be air pruned, so that a dense mass of productive, feeder roots can grow within the pot to make transplanting easier. Mature sizes vary. When shipped, they are about 1-2' tall.

Select EZ Start® Potted Trees

Top-grade, potted trees chosen to give you a head start on growing. When shipped to you, they are about 3-4' tall.

*Tree sizes may vary by variety. See our Growing Guide for details.