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Best pecan varieties for Zone 7A central Virginia

 
Posts: 31
Location: King William, VA
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Hi all,

I am looking to start 20 or so pecan trees in my old horse pasture, which will be the beginnings of what I would like eventually to be a thriving orchard/food forest.  I realize that zone 7a in central Virginia where I live is not the optimum region for pecans, but I have heard of people growing pecans in this region with success.  Does anybody have experience with what type of varieties would be the best for 7a?  

I have read with pecans that it is a good idea to plant 2 or 3 different varieties with overlapping flowering time spans in order to ensure better pollination.  What is your experience with this method?

Also, is there a recommended source for viable bare root pecan saplings for my region?  

Lastly, does anybody have experience interplanting other types of trees with the pecans as an understory?  I am thinking hazelnuts, elderberry, and maybe paw-paw.

Thanks,

Josh
 
Posts: 282
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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You will need to look at the Kanza variety which is a cold hardy.  There may be other varieties that do well, but Kanza is the go to for the northern plains states for pecans.  Cape Fear, Elliott and Desirable may also be varieties to research; but I don't know your climate.

You will definitely need a type I and type II variety in the same vicinity.  Kanza is a type II.  Pawnee is reported to be a good pollinator.  The male and female parts of the pecan trees are present at different times of the season, so they won't self pollinate.  One has to have another tree that will provide pollen at the same time the tree is receptive to pollen to produce fruit.  Planting multiple varieties may increase your chances, but with wind pollination it is more about the correct timing and distance than diversity.  

I have used these folks with good results: Texas Pecan  Womack is a highly regarded supplier, but their prices when way up two season's ago. Womack's

You will need to plant bare root stock around the March time frame.  I plant in late January or February, but I don't have hard freezes as you may.  Tip:  don't let the roots begin to dry.  Keep them damp at all times.  That means wet burlap even when you are in the field planting.  This also means short shipping times are better.  Depending on the orchard lay out you select, you will plant 12 to 24 trees per acre.  20 acres is a lot of trees.  I find it more economical to go pick up my trees in a trailer, so I can ensure they are kept moist and protected.  If you found a supplier on the East Coast, probably Georgia, it would be less expensive than shipping; and your trees would be less stressed in transit.

I don't have (yet) direct experiencing companion planting in a pecan orchard.  However, from life experience I can tell you pecans (all hickory family) can be found interspersed with a variety of trees.  They are not picky about their neighbors, unlike black walnuts.  One finds native pecan stock volunteering in hedgerows quite willingly.  
 
Joshua LeDuc
Posts: 31
Location: King William, VA
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That is some great advice Jack.  Thanks.  So, you mentioned March for planting seedlings.  I keep hearing how fall is a great time to plant bare root seedlings.  Are you saying this time of the years isn't optimal for transplanting pecans?
 
Jack Edmondson
Posts: 282
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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I am not a biologist.  I just know what I have read and what county extension agents have passed to me.  Pecan trees can be tricky to transplant.  The roots are sensitive to becoming dry.  I am told the trees should be fully dormant before taking up the root; and should be in the ground before the sap starts to rise.  By mid April here, I have buds on pecan trees.  So that establishes my window.  

In my area nurseries won't sell before January and are often sold out of popular cultivars by the end of February.  Mid Atlantic conditions might be different.  Fall may be okay to plant root stock.  I have never tried.  Check with some suppliers to see if they are available in the fall.  
 
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