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Nuts About Pecan Trees

HAVE A LOVE AFFAIR with hickory trees? If you grew up or live on a farm, you surely do. But finding one in a garden center is nearly impossible. The next best thing, but easier to find, is the pecan, Carya illinoinensis. You can now find many wonderful pecan trees growing on Kentucky farms and large urban estates. The pecan is a huge, stately tree growing 70 to 100 feet tall and 40 to 75 feet wide. For optimal production, you should plant them 60 feet apart.

THE PECAN is one of the most popular edible nuts today. The University of Georgia, which has done tremendous pecan research, recommends cultivars Elliott, Excel, Gloria Grande, and Sumner for the home garden; they have excellent insect and disease resistance. Amling, Carter, and Gafford cultivars are also recommended, but more difficult to find.

FOR OPTIMAL NUT PRODUCTION, ideally you will need two different cultivars to ensure adequate cross pollination and fruit production. If you don’t have room for two trees, consider working with a neighbor and have each plant a different cultivar near the common property line. But if you can only plant one, you will still be rewarded with lots of pecans to harvest and enjoy. Container-grown plants are best for transplanting, as the pecan is known for developing a taproot. It is also known for its low branching, so some pruning may be necessary to raise the canopy as it matures so you don’t bump your head on its branches.

by Angie McManus

We have newly planted blackberry vines. We were told not to let them bear fruit this year. Should we cut them back to just above the ground for next year’s harvest or leave them alone?

Blackberries are a delicious treat to add to the garden. If they have the right growing conditions and are properly cared for, they will provide you with many years of fruit. There are three different kinds of blackberries but here in Kentucky we typically only grow two: semi-erect and semi-trailing. The trailing varieties are not typically hardy for us. As for pruning, they should be left alone for now. Future pruning depends on what kind of blackberry you are growing.

Semi-erect cultivars should be pruned for the first time during the winter dormant period. They should be cut back where the canes start bending over. They can also be pinched back during the summer months if at any time the canes have put on more than one foot of new growth.

For semi-trailing blackberries, the first time to prune them would be early next spring. At this time, you will want to study each plant and pick out two or three of the most vigorous canes and remove the rest at ground level.

For more detailed information, go online to and type “Growing Blackberries and Raspberries” in the Search box to find a downloadable PDF.

Go to, click on Home & Garden, then “Ask The Gardener”.

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