By Andy Sherrod, Orchard Manager
The month of March reminds me of an adolescent. You may know what I’m talking about. Kids in that transitional phase really soak up the hugs and kisses one day, and the next day they tell you to quit treating them like a baby. In the same way, the month of March doesn’t know if it wants to be winter or spring, so let’s talk about both.
Pecan trees, along with mesquites, are the last trees to wake up in the spring. That’s good, because we don’t want those tender pecan buds to pop too soon while the unpredictable March weather bounces around from sleeting to sunny. But even though it may still feel like winter and the trees don’t show it, the sap is on the move.
That’s right. As March progresses, the roots release their stored food reserves and send them up to the limbs. In fact, if you trim a major pecan limb in mid-March you will soon notice the cut begin to “bleed” or turn moist with that upward-moving sap. So March is a great time to apply the first round of fertilizer.
|We spread dry fertilizer on top of the soil and inject liquid fertilizer into our irrigation system, which is sometimes called “fertigation”.|
The Big Three in the fertilizer world are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (N-P-K). Most fertilizer bags will list the nutrient analysis with three numbers. A common balanced fertilizer is 13-13-13. Triple thirteen contains 13% Nitrogen, 13% Phosphorous, and 13% Potassium. If it contains any other elements, those will be listed in smaller print somewhere on the label.
Of the three, nitrogen is the most mobile both in the tree and in the soil. So a March application of nitrogen is important. Even though the tree looks dormant it’s not. Remember the upward moving sap? It can carry nutrients with it, so March is the perfect time to apply nitrogen. The nitrogen is quickly taken up by the tree leaving little time for it to volatilize into the air or leach out through the soil profile with a heavy rain.
I recommend the application of at least some of the other two, phosphorous and potassium. Even though they aren’t as mobile in the soil, they are both critical to the tree’s health and should always be present in ample amounts.
So, weather during the month of March may be confused but pecans trees aren’t. Treat them likes it’s spring, even though they look like it’s still winter.