Introduction: Keeping Pecan Seedling Trees Alive in Dry Conditions
This information is for the homeowners living in arid states of the great plains of the USA, including, but not limited to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona. My home in Western Oklahoma, USA is usually dry, getting 15 inches annually. If trees sprout from seeds or you set out tree seedlings and depend on rain to keep them alive until the roots can get established, they will nearly always die.
If you pour the water on the ground's surface, the water doesn't get down to the roots where it is needed. Pecan trees have a single tap root that is three times as long as the visible tree's above ground growth. A 6 inch tall pecan seedling will have an 18 inch long tap root. The water needs to be applied at least 2 feet deep down to the roots where it is needed. I found a solution. Let me explain.
Step 1: Digging the Hole for the Pipe
I bury a 6 inch diameter by 24 inch long PVC pipe next to the little tree. I bury it 21 inches deep, leaving 3 inches sticking up above ground level. This keeps little animals such as turtles and baby birds from falling into the pipe to die. The PVC pipe is open top and bottom, allowing me to add one (1) gallon or more of water down to the root system. There are two different grades of PVC; the light weight and less expensive 200 psi and the Schedule 40 which is heavier, thicker and more expensive. I usually opt for the schedule 40 because it is not terribly expensive and it stands up better to getting damaged by being hit by the mower and other hazards.
Step 2: Watering Each Tree
This gets the water down below the roots where it will not evaporate, but will water the tree for at least a week even in the most arid conditions. If it doesn't rain within a week, it's time to add another gallon of water.
I have over 200 small pecan trees, so that takes seven (7) trips, hauling it in a 30 gallon barrel on my golf cart. The barrel has a short piece of garden hose connected to the bottom. I set the barrel on the floorboard on the passenger's side and drain the water into each PVC pipe. I drop the hose into the pipe and let it add water for 30 seconds. then drive to the next tree's pipe and repeat. That procedure takes about 4 hours, but it is well worth the effort. If I can let the roots get established keep them alive for three years, they nearly always survive with no more watering.
Step 3: Beautiful Trees That Produce a Cash Crop. $$$$
Here are some photos of my pecan trees I have started with this method. The best time to plant a pecan tree is in the fall or early winter. Drop 3 or 4 pecans onto soil that has been loosened up with a spade, then mash them into the soil with your shoe sole. I learned this from the squirrels. They bury them to where the pecan is just below ground level. Any deeper is too deep.
Mulch with leaves or grass clippings to hold moisture in the soil. They should come up in the spring. After they get up to the size or a pencil in diameter, they will need to be grafted. See my other instructable for info on grafting.
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