Fruits, Pecans, & Berries

Planting & Annual Maintenance Guide

Fruits, pecans, and berries need tender loving care to thrive and produce fruit in Central Texas.  Following these basic guidelines for soil preparation and maintenance can lead to success.  First, choose a location in full sun where the soil has good surface and internal drainage.  Be sure to give each plant proper spacing to minimize diseases and maximize production.

Bloom from a Red Baron peach tree.
Species Pruning Methods Self Fertile? Preferred Soil Type Soil Treatment Root Stock Maint- enance Fruiting Age Notes
Single Leader Method
Pollenizer needed
Rich, deep soil
Compost and fertilizer
Malus x domestica
High
4-6yrs
Follow a dormant season spray schedule.
None
Self fertile
Thin, lean soil
Compost and fertilzer
Carrizo or Flying Dragon
Medium
2-4yrs
Protect from freezes.
None
Self fertile
Thin, lean soil
Compost
No graft
Low
3-5yrs
Watch for fig leaf rust in late summer.
Kniffen Method
Self fertile
Thin, lean soil
Compost
No graft
Medium
2-3yrs
Susceptible to Pierce's disease.
Loquat
None
Self fertile
Rich-lean soil
Compost
No graft
Medium
3-5yrs
Susceptible to fire blight
Open Center Method
Self fertile
Rich, deep soil
Compost and fertilizer
Nemaguard
High
3-5yr
Follow a dormant season spray schedule.
Single Leader Method
Semi-self fertile/Pollenizer needed
Rich, deep soil
Compost
Pyrus calleryana
High
5-7yrs
Has taproot. 3ft+ deep soils are best. Follow a dormant season spray schedule.
Single Leader Method
None usually needed, Kanza is universal pollenizer
Rich, deep soil
Compost
Hardy native
Low
5-10yrs
Has taproot. 3ft+ deep soils are best.
Single Leader Method OR Open Center Method
Self fertile
Rich, deep soil
Compost and fertilizer
American Persimmon - Lotus
Low
3-5yrs
Allow fruit to become soft before harvesting (especially astringent varieties).
Open Center Method
Self fertile
Rich, deep soil
Compost and fertilizer
Nemaguard
High
3-5yrs
Follow a dormant season spray schedule.
None
Self fertile
Thin, lean soil
Compost and fertilizer
No graft
Low
3-5yrs
High humidity leads to heart rot of the fruit.

*Pruning methods at planting

Single Leader Method – Leave single leader and 1-2 evenly spaced side branches.
Open Center Method – Cut leader to 24-30″ from the ground and remove all side branches.
Kniffen Method (for grapes) – Leave single leader to reach the trellis.

NO FLOWERS = NO FRUIT

Chilling hours are the number of hours below 45°F and above 34°F.  All fruit and nut trees need to be exposed to a specific number of chill hours in order to flower.  This is why it’s important to appropriately match the tree to its area.  If the tree doesn’t get enough chill hours it won’t flower properly.  If it flowers too early, a freeze will destroy the blooms.

The figures in the chart below are estimates.  Central Texas weather can be unpredictable and extreme so chilling hours will vary from year to year, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  For reliable production, it’s best to choose several varieties of trees.  Ask any of our friendly nursery staff to aid in proper selection!

    • Dig a hole 2-3x the width of the rootball to accommodate the entire root system without crowding.  Make sure the hole is no deeper than the rootball.  Remove the pot and any fabric covering the root ball and tease out the roots.  Check for any circling roots and if they cannot be straightened remove them with clean pruners.  *If the planting site has shallow soil, such as in rocky areas of the Hill Country, mix in high a quality garden soil with the native soil and create a raised bed with enough depth to plant in.
    • Place the tree in the hole ensuring that the root flare is at the same level as the soil surface.  For bare root trees, build a small, firm hill in the center of the hole.  Place the tree on top and spread the roots out along the sides of the hill.  For greater nutrition add a mineral supplement and mycorrhizal fungi.
    • Carefully backfill the hole with native soil, ensuring that soil is placed around the roots with no air pockets or voids.  Do not tamp down the soil too hard as this could cause compaction, rather backfill firmly.  Watering periodically while backfilling helps to reduce air pockets.  The finished soil level should be a little above the native soil to allow for settling.
    • Rake in 1-2″ of compost across the top of the whole planting area once the hole is backfilled avoiding the stem or trunk.  Finish off with a 3″ layer of mulch (either ground hardwood or pine straw) on top of that compost layer, ensuring that there is a mulch-free area about 3-4″ wide immediately around the base of the tree.  Mulch must not touch the trunk of the tree or stem of the bush.

*Pecans and pears should only be planted where there is at least 3 feet of native soil, as they grow into large trees that need an extensive growing medium.

Watering

Thoroughly water the entire root zone and beyond immediately after planting.  Follow with a solution of liquid seaweed.  Always water deeply, and adjust the frequency to match the seasons.

  • During winter, water only enough to prevent the soil from drying out completely.  Water trees before a freeze.
  • During the growing season, water about once a week.
  • When temperatures are above 95°F, water deeply once or twice a week.

Pruning

Pruning at planting time is essential for all apples, pears, pecans, plums, and peaches.  See our specific guides:

Apples
Grapes
Pears
Pecans
Plums
Peaches

For further pruning help, search for fruit tree pruning information online, and only consult university websites for the most accurate information.

Mulching

Mulch over the root zone of all trees with a mulch of ground hardwood or pine straw.  Maintain a layer at least three inches thick, starting a few inches away from the trunk and extending beyond the dripline.

Fertilizing & Compost

Topdress with a 1″ layer of compost annually in either spring or fall.

Fertilize most fruits once a month in March through June with a high nitrogen, all-purpose fertilizer over the entire root zone.  Only fertilize if the plant is actively growing.  Add another light application again in the fall (late October).

Do not fertilize figs, pears, or grapes on this schedule.  Fertilize grapes and figs annually in late winter.  For pears, only topdress with compost.  These three fruits do best in lean soils.

Fruit Tree Spray Schedule for Apples, Peaches, Pears and Plums

  1. At leaf drop in the fall. Apply beneficial nematodes in a soil drench around your fruit trees to help control plum curculio larvae in the soil.  Nematodes are most effective against the larval stage rather than emerging adults.  Apply them annually after leaf drop.  Spray sulfur or a biological fungicide such as Monterey Disease Control to help prevent diseases.
  2. During winter dormancy. Spray neem oil, Organocide, or another organic oil once a week for 2–3 wks.
  3. At bud swell in late winter/early spring. Spray a fungicide as listed in #1 above.
  4. Late winter is the time to control the plum curculio, which causes “the worm” in the fruit of plums, peaches, and sometimes apples.  At this time, as often as possible in early morning, spread sheets on the ground under the tree and shake the tree to knock the plum curculio to the ground.  Quickly gather up the sheets and submerge them in soapy water to kill the beetles.  This is also a good way to monitor how much of a problem the beetles are for that season.   Spray kaolin clay (see application instructions below) which leaves a coating on the surface of the fruit and leaf that is both distasteful and an irritant to the plum curculio.  Spray at the following times:
    • at Petal Fall (5 days after bloom), when 80% – 100% of the flower petals have fallen, do not spray open flowers;
    • again at Shuck Split (14 days after bloom), after the fruit has just barely formed and has just expanded enough to split its papery covering (the “shuck”);
    • and repeat up to harvest to keep a thin film of clay on the developing fruits.
  5. From spring to summer make sure to pick up and destroy any infected fruit that falls from the tree.
  6. Throughout the growing season, once a month or more apply seaweed alone or mixed with fish emulsion. In addition, spray our aerobically-brewed compost tea regularly for overall health, disease prevention, and disease control.

HOW TO SPRAY KAOLIN CLAY:  Mix the kaolin clay as directed in a pump-up sprayer, adding a little mild soap as a spreader/sticker.  Keep shaking the sprayer as you spray.  Kaolin clay is a wettable powder that must be kept agitated in order to remain suspended in the water.  If the white film on the tree fades due to rain, reapply.  Spray early morning or late evening only.  The goal is to maintain this coating through harvest. Remember to wash your sprayer out thoroughly after each use to prevent clogging

Control of pests such as plum curculio requires close observation and accurate timing of several different treatments and cultural practices throughout the year.  A vibrant, healthy tree can resist infestation better than a malnourished and weak tree.  Therefore, maintain the health of the tree by fertilizing, mulching, and watering according to the advice given above.  Prevent overwintering pests and disease by removing any dropped fruit.  Clean up debris around the trees (fallen leaves, weeds, brush piles, etc.) and mow closely in areas nearby to reduce the overwintering sites of the adult plum curculio.

Plum curculio, Conotrachelus nenuphar (Herbst), is a native American insect found east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. Native trees, such as the Crabapple or the Mexican Plum, may host Plum Curculio.  It is the key fruit-attacking insect pest of peaches and other stone fruit in the southeastern United States and is also a pest of pome fruit and blueberries. 

Adult plum curculios are small brownish-black snout beetles, about 1/4 inch (4-6 mm) long, mottled with lighter gray or brown markings. The mouthparts are at the end of a moderately curved snout that is about one-fourth the length of the body. Their backs are roughened and bear two prominent humps and two smaller humps. Larvae are slightly curved, yellowish-white, legless, brown-headed grubs, about 3/8 inch (6-9 mm) long when fully grown.

Life Cycle of the Plum Curculio

Plum curculio overwinter as adults in leaf litter or the soil and become active in the spring following several days of either a mean temperature above 60°F or maximum temperatures above 75°F. This time period normally coincides with the blossom period of fruit. If temperatures drop and conditions become unfavorable the adults may return to hibernation sites. Although the emergence period lasts for several weeks, 40-60% of the total emergence occurs on a single day.

The adult plum curculio emerges from its overwintering site and flies to trees to feed on buds, flowers and newly set fruit over a five to six week period. The female adult cuts a hole in the fruit with her mouthparts and hollows out a small cavity then turns and deposits an egg in the cavity. She then cuts a crescent shaped slit which extends beneath the egg so as to leave the egg in a flap of the fruit. Injury will appear as a 1/8 inch crescent shaped cut on the fruit. This prevents the egg from being crushed by the rapidly developing fruit. This results in an appearance called cat facing of the fruit. After about five days, the larvae will hatch and burrow into the fruit. The adult begins laying eggs as soon as fruit is formed on the tree – when the fruit is barely visible. 

Larvae develop over 2 – 4 weeks, crawl out of the fruit, and drop to the ground (if the fruit hasn’t already fallen to the ground). The larvae tunnel into the ground and construct an earthen cell 1 – 3 inches below the surface. They pupate and may develop into adults within 3 – 4 weeks, becoming the second generation plum curculios of the year.  If it is a dry year, there may only be one generation.  Second generation adults emerge in July & August, feeding on foliage.

Fire blight is a bacterial disease (Erwinia amylovora) that can affect plants in the rose family, especially pears, but also apples, quince, pyracantha, spiraea, cotoneaster, photinia, and loquat.  Symptoms show up within a couple of weeks after bloom.  The growing tips die, turning brown to black, looking as if they’ve been burned by fire.  The dead tips wilt, forming a very typical “shepherd’s crook” symptom.  If fire blight is left untreated, it can kill the plant.  With the following management practices, however, a fire-blight infected plant can be saved if caught in time.  It is important to diagnose correctly and treat the plant as soon as possible.

  • Avoid over-fertilizing or heavily pruning susceptible plants, especially pears.  Fast, succulent growth, often produced by heavy pruning and high nitrogen fertilizers, is more susceptible to fire blight.
  • The most ideal time to prevent and treat fire blight is just before blooms open.  There are two effective sprays using beneficial bacteria available: Actinovate can be sprayed every 7 – 14 days until blooming has finished. Mix 1 – 2 tsp. Actinovate per gallon on diseased trees; ½ – 1 tsp. per gallon as prevention. Alternatively, mix 1 teaspoon of Monterey Complete Disease Control per gallon of water and apply directly to plants using a hand pump sprayer or other suitable spray equipment. Spray just enough to wet all leaves and fruit with minimal run-off or dripping. Total coverage depends on the size of plants to be sprayed and the type of sprayer used. Repeat as needed to maintain disease control, typically every 7-10 days. If disease is prevalent or environmental conditions such as high humidity favor disease outbreak, increase the mixing rate to 1 tablespoon per gallon and shorten the interval between sprays to every 3-7 days.
  • If disease symptoms are noticed after blooming has finished, prune as described below, and spray at the stronger rate once. Watch for further symptoms and spot treat as needed.
  • Prune out diseased branches at least 8 to 12 inches below the visible injury or canker. A greater distance below infections may be required on major branches, scaffolds, or trunks in May or June, when blight bacteria are spreading rapidly.
  • Dip or spray the pruning tool between every cut with a 10% solution of bleach (one part bleach to nine parts water), with isopropyl alcohol, or Lysol. Dry and oil tools after use to prevent rust. Burn trimmings or discard in trash. Avoid touching healthy tissue with infected tissue.

Our trees often have problems with the fall (pecan) webworm in pecan and other trees.

The Trichogramma wasp is an effective biological control measure for the pecan webworm, and many other caterpillar pests.  The Trichogramma wasp lays its eggs in the eggs of the pest, before it hatches into a caterpillar.  Ideally, Trichogramma wasps should be released at the first sign of the pest moth.  For the pecan webworm, there are three times a year when moths are laying eggs:  early May, mid-June, and early August.  Ideally, release wasps two or three times, ten days apart, starting in early May. ARBICO Organics is a recommended source of beneficial insects.

 A biological control called Bacillus thuringensis (B.t.) is a very specific insecticide for caterpillars. For the pecan webworm, the web must be opened to spray the leaves inside the web.  Ideally, the B.t. should be sprayed in the evening since it breaks down in sunlight.

 Another control for this pest is to spray trees in the winter with dormant oil.  As the name suggests, the oil should only be sprayed in the winter.  Coat the upper twigs, branches, and trunk.