Gardeners' Dirt: Planting a Texas symbol
By Linda Hartman - Victoria County Master GardenerEdited by Charla Borchers Leon
Nov. 28, 2013 at 5:28 a.m.
Can you name the Texas state tree? The state song? The state bird? The state mammal? If you do not know the answers, ask an elementary student. Teachers have taught the symbols of Texas for many years in an effort to teach pride in our grand old state.
Benefits of our state tree
The Native Americans and the early pioneers enjoyed the benefits of the pecan trees before the tree was ever identified by the first settlers. The pecan tree provided delicious nuts, which help control high cholesterol, are rich in vitamins and provide antioxidants.
The beautiful limbs with their green leaves provided a shady place for early Texans to rest. Numerous parks, courthouses and streets are enhanced by the thick shade of our state trees.
A good choice
Pecan trees make a wonderful choice for one's garden as an ornamental tree, but there are several considerations before the tree is planted. As with any plant, the homeowner needs to complete his homework.
Which tree is best for the home? How much space is required for a pecan tree? Where does one purchase the best variety of tree? How is a pecan tree planted for a successful landscape?
There are more than 100 varieties of pecan trees, and pecan trees grow in 150 counties in Texas. Many of the trees were named for the Americans Indians who lived in Texas, but a Wichita or a Shawnee will not grow well in our area.
Homeowners should plant an early pollen-shedding tree and a late pollen-shedding tree to ensure effective cross-pollination. The Pawnee and the Sioux varieties are recommended for our area, but others may also grow here with success.
Pecan trees should be planted within 300 feet of each other to ensure good pollination but not closer than 35 feet. Trees that are placed too closely will have a stunted or misshapen appearance. Pecan trees need full sun exposure to reach their fullest potential.
Pecan trees grow best in the sandy soil found along rivers and creeks, but most trees will grow satisfactorily in deep, well-drained soil with sufficient water and nutrients. Soil depth and the amount of air in the soil are other considerations. As the tree ages, it will need adequate space to reach its full size.
Planting your new tree
December, January and February are the optimal months for planting pecan trees. Purchase your trees from a reputable business - do not waste your time or money by buying trees at a "good deal."
The following suggestions from John Begnaud, retired county extension agent of horticulture in Tom Green County, provide a guideline for planting a small orchard and the home landscape.
1. The transplant hole should be slightly wider than the root system and only as deep as the tap root.
2. Place tree in hole at the exact same depth as it was originally grown. A dark line on the tree will show evidence of the original soil level.
3. Spread the lateral roots out and avoid wrapping them around the hole. Prune split, damaged or excessively long roots.
4. Fill the hole about one-half full of water.
5. Begin backfilling with the soil slowly to allow the escape of air.
6. The soil will settle with time, and additional soil should be placed in the hole until the proper level is reached. A well or terrace around the tree will aid in holding water.
How trees are marketed
Pecan trees are available as container-grown, bare-root or balled and burlapped (dug with an undisturbed ball of soil around the roots) at many nurseries. Container-grown trees are well adapted for landscapes, but these cost more than bare root trees. Bare-root trees should be protected by moist soil, peat or sawdust to prevent freezing. Burlapped trees require heavy equipment for planting and can be expensive.
Time and care will provide homeowners with a wonderful tree that will provide shade and nuts for many generations. In the spirit of the holiday season, look for an upcoming article about pecans as gifts coming your way in this column.
Symbols of Texas
We have three state mammals - imagine a longhorn, an armadillo, and a Mexican free-tailed bat enjoying the shade of a pecan tree while a mockingbird sings "Texas, our Texas."
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.