My cousins inherited the music genes of the family, but I didn’t. I inherited the gardening genes and they didn’t. I enjoy their music and they call me for advice, so it balances out. The latest “What is wrong with (fill in the blank), was “Why is my pecan tree not producing nuts or so few nuts?”

The reasons are many but simple. Pecans (Carya illinoinensis) produce large and small crops on alternate years. They are not self-pollenating so need a different variety that flowers at the same time and consistently produces. Newly planted trees may produce a few nuts in three to four years, but it takes another six years to have a good crop. And, it depends on the variety. ‘Pawnee’ that matures at 70’ and live 100 years is considered the best tasting. For smaller yards, plant ‘Stuart’ that matures to only 30’x’30’, according to Stark’s Bros. and Home Depot, Nature Hills and the Nut House.

Pecans have special needs as do most plants. Full sun. Well-drained but not soggy soil. They need at least a gallon of water a day, double that in August-October when setting its nuts. Plant on the uphill side and 20’ from a structure or paving due to its aggressive taproot according to Texas A&M University. Related to hickory and walnut, its nuts also permanently dye/stain whatever they touch, and exude juglone from its roots that is toxic to nearby plants. Prune in the summer to shape and to reduce the amount of foliage that draws nutrients from the nuts.

The nut’s sweet nutty and buttery taste is attributed to its high oil content that makes it the most popular nut for cooking and snacks. Technically, what we eat is a seed inside a drupe, a soft outer layer surrounding a pit similar to cherries.

THINGS TO DO

In bloom — Coming into bloom are coneflower, goldenrod and turtlehead native wildflower. Rose and magnolia blooms are reblooming as we go into cooler weather.

Bulbs — Bulb nurseries are promoting pre-order bulb sales to ensure that you get exactly what you want when. Contrary to the rumor that there is NOT a shortage of spring bulbs. Holland’s adverse weather last year and transportation restrictions due to COVID have slowed some orders but orders will be filled if ordered early.

Compost — Compost around perennials no more than 1”, and 3” around trees and shrubs but no closer than 3” from the trunk. Work some compost in bulbs’ planting holes. Compost helps create a nutrient-rich soil, retains moisture, reduces diseases and lessens the need for chemical fertilizers.

Garden — Leave some sunflower, heliopsis(false sunflower), and coneflower heads on their stems for goldfinches. Heliopsis is a good food source for pollinators and birds. It is time to order for spring and summer including perennials and annuals now for spring: bachelor button, feverfew, lupine, milkweed, and poppy(annual and perennial). Plant the seed after the first hard freeze. Order dahlias and deer resistant peonies. A discount is offered on peonies by brecks.com. Lower fertilizer to allow plants to start the hardening off process before the first frost. Slow-release fertilizers and compost are the exceptions. They do not promote quick growth as do quick-release chemical fertilizers.

Trees and shrubs — Fall webworms have returned to form webs or bags that cover branch ends where they eat the end-of-the-season’s leaves. They are more unattractive than harmful as they do not eat next year’s leaf buds nor attack the same tree each year. The best way to destroy them is to pierce the web with a long pole, wrap the bag around the pole and put it in a bucket of soapy water.

Vegetables — Pinch herb flowers to encourage foliage growth. Check vegetables for yellowed foliage and rotting fruit and remove.

Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun’s gardening columnist at, carolynroof02@gmail.com

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