Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) is recommended for growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 6 through 9. Zone 7, which includes Tennessee, Mississippi and parts of Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia is characterised by hot, humid summers and moderate winters, an excellent climate for growing pecan trees. Pecans are native to the floodplains and river bottoms, requiring moist, deep, well-drained soil and full sun to grow well. They are wind-pollinating, so the University of Alabama Cooperative Extension Services recommends planting more than one cultivar to ensure cross-pollination and a crop.
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Plant "Cape Fear" pecan trees if you want a lot of nuts, fast. This cultivar is productive in as few as four years. Unlike many pecan cultivars, which bear poorly or not at all in alternate years, "Cape Fear" produces a healthy crop every year. As the tree matures, it may become overproductive and require pruning to keep nut size and quality from decreasing. Plant "Cape Fear" with "Syrup Mill" pecan trees to ensure cross-pollination.
Plant "Elliott" pecan trees if you value taste over quantity. "Elliott" produces a small nut with wonderful taste. Extremely disease-resistant and hardy, these trees can occasionally suffer frost damage because buds break early in April. "Elliott" will yield a small crop in alternate years, but the taste is well worth the inconvenience. Plant with "McMillan" pecan trees to ensure good cross-pollination.
Plant "Syrup Mill" if you want an attractive yard tree that also produces a healthy crop of pecans. "Syrup Mill" grows rapidly and leaves stay on the tree late in the year. Nuts are medium-sized, and the yield will not be great in alternate years, but the tree makes up for it with disease resistance and good looks. Plant with "Cape Fear" pecan trees for good cross-pollination, and expect your first crop when the tree is 7 to 8 years old.
Plant "McMillan'" pecan trees to get a consistently good-sized, high-quality crop in alternate bearing years. Resistant to scab diseases, this tree goes into production at age six if you plant it with "Elliott" cultivars, which bloom at the same time. Though the yield is low in alternate years, Elliott will make up for it with consistently high production. As with all pecan cultivars, plant trees 30 feet apart to ensure wind pollination.
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