PECAN LEAVES AND PECAN SHELLS
FOR MULCH AND BBQ
"One person's trash is another person's
treasure." That saying is especially true when it comes
to pecan by-products.
Many confused people have the notion that pecan
leaves should not be used in the garden. Pecan leaves CAN
be used in the garden and will cause no problems at all if
decomposition has occurred. The old wives' tale (or persons'
tale, for the more sensitive of my readers) about pecan leaves
not being suitable for use in a home garden must have resulted
from the fact that the walnut tree, a close cousin of the
pecan, does secrete a phytotoxic substance called juglans,
which is especially harmful to tomatoes and members of the
Solanaceous family. However, dried pecan leaves do not contain
this substance and are perfectly safe to use in the garden.
In fact, I have talked with gardeners who live
on the south side of San Antonio, where pecan trees are plentiful
(and pecan leaves are even more so), who have used an abundance
of pecan leaves for 30 years with no detrimental effects.
However, the stem and midrib of pecan leaves contain quantities
of tannin, which preserves it. It is a good idea to allow
all leaves to decompose before use. Other than that, pecan
leaves are safe to use.
I have heard some irrational, misinformed people
say that the reason pecan leaves are not used is because they
put too much acid into the soil. This reason is totally WRONG.
First, all organic material produced from an alkaline growing
condition is mainly alkaline. Since pecan trees are growing
in alkaline soil types, the decomposition product unfortunately
will be alkaline. Even if this were not true, pure sulfuric
acid can be applied to the soils in this area and the soil
will neutralize the pure acid and not be significantly altered
because area soils are so basic (alkaline).
Five pounds of sulfur, the amount recommended
for 100 square feet of garden space, releases 15 pounds of
pure sulfuric acid. It would take the decomposed remains of
several semi-trailer truckloads of leaves, regardless of the
type, to produce that much sulfuric acid. Our soils need all
of the acid that they can get, and if pecan leaves produce
more acid, then that is one major advantage to using them
-- BUT THEY DON'T.
What about pecan shells? The millions of pounds
of pecans processed in Texas every year results in a lot of
shells lying around. Someone should be picking them up by
the truckload and bagging them for back yard barbecues as
well as to for use as one of the most attractive mulches available.
For years in the Southeastern U.S. (Tennessee and Louisiana),
people have been cutting green pecan limbs off small pecan
trees or saving pecan or wood to barbecue with. For some people,
the hickory and mesquite currently on the market seem to overpower
the flavor of meat. Pecan shells, which have the same characteristics
as pecan wood, will enhance the flavor. It gives the meat
a soft, sweet flavor.
The only pecan shell product currently on the
market is packaged in Louisiana and called "Cajun Sweet
Smoke", in recognition of the sweet aroma and flavor
given to meat prepared with pecan shells. The shells are put
through a shaker screen, dried, and then further processed
to thoroughly clean them before packaging.
As one of the nation's largest pecan-producing
states, Texas has an abundance of the raw product. The product
works equally well with an electric grill, a gas grill, a
regular charcoal grill or a smoker.
So as you devour all of those pecan goodies,
don't overlook the best parts -- the leaves that fall on the
ground and the shells that are the by-product of a lot of
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
SECOND WEEK OF DECEMBER 2002
QUESTION: We picked pecans last week in San Antonio and after
cracking many them, we find them either rotten or very soft.
What happened to the pecan crop this year? The outer shell
looks perfectly normal, but inside they are terrible. Last
year we got pecans off these same trees and they were wonderful.
ANSWER: This year has not been kind to the pecan
crop. First it was "powder keg" dry until late June
and then the area was inundated with rainfall. This alone
caused great tree stress and nut drop. Then the stink bugs
and schuck worm attacked the nuts. Along the way, the deluge
of rain led to leaf drop from downy spot disease. Without
the leaves, nutfill will be poor at best. So the rotten nuts
inside were caused by a combination of stink bug feeding and
tunneling of the shuck worm in the green shucks. Leaf drop
contributed to poor fill and/or the softness of the kernels.
Allow the nuts to totally dry out before shelling. If the
nuts are wet, this also contributes to the spongy nature of
the nuts. The problem is that the wet weather does not allow
for nut drying to take place. You almost have to place the
nuts inside of the house where the humidity is lower. But
the nuts need to be in containers which breathe, ie not plastic.
Suspending the nuts in mesh sacks in a dry garage works well.
QUESTION: I was told that you can grow a beautiful green plant
from an onion bulb. I have one rooting in water and shooting
up scallions right now, but that's all it's doing. Is it true
that a green plant can be grown from the bulb? And, if so,
ANSWER: Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
What you are calling scallions is the 'green plant' of the
onion family and is what you should expect from your endeavors.
QUESTION: I have an orange tree in the back yard that is bearing
fruit, but the oranges split just as they turn orange and
fall off the tree. I do not know when to pick them.
ANSWER: Uneven water regimens cause the fruit
to split. In other words, conditions were super dry and then
you got a lot of rain which caused the fruit to expand and
burst. A regular watering schedule and mulch will help reduce
this problem. The fruit should be fully colored before picking.
However, try a few as they color up and see if they are ready
to eat. If so, go ahead and pick a few and leave the rest
on the tree until you are ready for them.
QUESTION: My mother use to have a bedding plant in front of
her house that looked like clover and had small pink flowers
(I think I remember seeing one group with white flowers).
I am wondering what they were called. She always called them
the critter bushes because insects loved to hide under their
cover, and you could also always find earth worms for fishing
ANSWER: I'm sure that what you are referring
to is a plant commonly called Wood Sorrel (Oxalis sp.) and
probably is Oxalis crassipes. The white variety is Oxalis
This information is from the Botanica CD-Rom:
Oxalis Family name: Oxalidaceae
Common name(s): Wood sorrel
This is a large genus of 500 or so species of
bulbous, rhizomatous and fibrous-rooted perennials and a few
small, weak shrubs. Though found around the world, the greatest
number of Oxalis species are native to South Africa and South
America. Some have become garden and greenhouse weeds which,
though pretty in flower, have given a bad name to the genus;
most species listed here are more restrained in growth and
make choice additions to the garden. The leaves are always
compound, divided into 3 or more heart-shaped or more deeply
2-lobed leaflets in a palmate arrangement (like clover). The
funnel-shaped flowers are usually pink, white or yellow and
are carried in an umbel-like cluster on slender stalks.
Hardiness zone from 3 To 11; Plant Spread approx.
30 cm; Plant Height From approx. 30 To 60 cm; Flowering colors:
Blue, Mauve, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow; Flowering
season: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter; Garden type: Bedding
Plant, Woodland, Small Garden; Position: Sunny, Shaded, Semi-Shaded;
Propagation season: Autumn; Soil: Sandy Loam, Medium Loam.
Oxalis Cultivation: Most species grow from bulbs
or corms, which multiply readily. A position in sun or part-shade
suits most, along with a mulched, well-drained soil and moderate
water. Propagate by division of the bulbs or from seed in
QUESTION: Do you have a recipe for a potting soil mix that
includes sawdust, sand, peat, etc., and that is suitable for
transplanting the seedlings of bedding plants?
ANSWER: There are probably as many recipes for
potting soil mixes as there are greenhouses. One of the major
concerns you must confront is a disease of bedding plants
called damping-off. Damping-off is caused by fungi in the
soil which kills the young seedlings. This fungi is introduced
by the use of non-sterilized materials such as sand, soil,
sawdust and such. See the Pennsylvania State University Cooperative
Extension article on Bedding Plant Diseases that can be found
at this web site:
That having been said, the Aggie-Horticulture
article found at this web site gives some growing media recipes:
QUESTION: I would like to know if yaupon holly
can be propagated from a cutting or grown only from seed.
ANSWER: Jill Nokes, in her book How to Grow
Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest, has this to say
about propagating hollies: Semi-hardwood cuttings from the
current season's growth root best. Cuttings should be taken
from mid to late summer. High concentrations of Indolebutyric
acid (IBA) should be used and the cuttings should be kept
under intermittent mist. Cuttings should root within 2 months.
Also, see this University of Georgia article
on Propagating Shrubs from Cuttings which can be found at
this web site:
QUESTION: I have planted some hydrangeas in my yard. They
are in a southwest exposure where they get plenty of sun in
the summer. They are also on a slow drip watering system that
provides sufficient water. They never bloom except for maybe
one flower each year. I suspect it has something to do with
Utah winters and when and how I should prune them. Do you
have any ideas or answers about when and how to prune hydrangeas
ANSWER: Hydrangeas bloom on 1-year old wood.
Therefore, if you prune them anytime other than soon after
they bloom, you will be cutting off the bloom buds. If there
is severe winter damage, this will also kill the buds (and
perhaps the branch). So you should prune to shape immediately
after flowering (no flowering, no pruning), and prune out
any dead material in the spring. See this previous Q &
A, which can be found at this PLANTanswers web site:
Question: I have some large, healthy hydrangeas
that refuse to bloom other than maybe one large bloom per
year. Any ideas on what the trouble might be?
Answer: Hydrangeas require full sun and adequate
moisture for best bloom. If you are meeting these needs, the
only other obvious cause for a lack of bloom is improperly
timed pruning. Prune the plants immediately after bloom, so
that new growth will be able to develop flower buds in the
fall. Pruning in the spring or early summer removes the flower
buds developed in the fall, preventing them from blooming
QUESTION: Can you tell me what our first expected freeze date
is for San Antonio this year? I've got plants to put in the
greenhouse and have not yet had time to do so, and I'm getting
ANSWER: I have jokingly predicted first freezes
in the past but would never commit to such on paper! At this
web site you can find climatology information for San Antonio:
FREEZE DATA: Average date of earlier freeze-December
Average date of last freeze-February 25
QUESTION: I have an English ivy in a large pot
outdoors that I am training into a conical shape on an upside
down tomato cage. Will this freeze? I don't remember the ivy
in my beds freezing during the winter. I also have a huge
pot that I want to put plants in for winter color on the patio.
Since it's so big, I don't think pansies alone will carry
work. I thought about putting a small evergreen in it for
height. Do you have any recommendations? Will it be okay in
a pot outdoors through the winter?
ANSWER: The ivy should be fine in the pot. If
we have a severe freeze (15 degrees F. or so for an extended
period) the pot should be moved into a protected location
against a south-facing wall if possible.
For the large pot, a favorite combination is
the larger snapdragons (16 to 20 inches) in the center, and
pansies around the outside. I prefer this combination to one
that includes a shrub.
QUESTION: Where can I buy non?hybrid vegetable seeds? I want
to be able to use the seeds from the past years' harvest.
ANSWER: Many non?hybrid seed are available from
any of the major seed company catalogs or even from the seed
racks that you find everywhere. Basically, all of the hybrid
seed will be labeled as such. Here are the web sites of a
couple of seed companies with quite extensive non?hybrid selections.
Also, here are some web sites that provide information
about saving your seed from year to year.
QUESTION: We are looking for some information
on planting and growing sugar cane.
ANSWER: Information on growing sugarcane (Saccharum
officinarum) is in extremely short supply on the Internet.
The most information that I was able to find is in the Sugarcrop
article at this web site:
This, in part, is what it says: "The cane
plant is a coarse growing member of the grass family with
juice or sap high in sugar content. It is tender to cold,
the tops being killed by temperatures a little below freezing.
In continental United States, where freezing may occur during
the winter, it is mainly planted in late summer or early fall
and harvested a year later. In tropical countries it may be
planted at almost any time of the year since the plant does
not have a rest period. The season of active growth in continental
United States is 7 to 8 months while in tropical countries
growth is near continuous until harvest. This results in heavier
yields of cane and sugar under tropical conditions. For example,
yields of cane and sugar per acre in Hawaii, where the cane
is grown for about 2 years before harvesting, are from 3 to
4 times yields in Louisiana and Florida from one season's
Sugar cane plants are propagated by planting
sections of the stem. The mature stems may vary from 4 to
12 feet or more ill height, and in commercial varieties are
from 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter. The stem has joints or nodes
as in other grasses. These range from 4 to 10 inches apart
along the above?ground section of the stem. At each node a
broad leaf rises which consists of a sheaf or base and the
leaf blade. The sheaf is attached to the stem at the node
and at that point entirely surrounds the stem with edges overlapping.
The sheath from one node encircles the stem up to the next
node above and may overlap the base of the leaf on the next
higher node. The leaf blade is very long and narrow, varying
in width from 1 to 3 inches and up to 5 feet or more in length.
Also, at each node along the stem is a bud, protected under
the leaf sheath. When stem sections are planted by laying
them horizontally and covering with soil a new stem grows
from the bud, and roots grow from the base of the new stem.
The stem branches below ground so several may rise as a clump
from the growth of the bud at a node.
In planting cane fields, mature cane stalks
are cut into sections and laid horizontally in furrows. In
continental United States sections with several nodes are
laid while in tropical countries sections with 2 or 3 nodes
are commonly used ? since temperatures for growth are more
favorable. Usually only one node on a stem piece develops.
a new plant because of polarity along the stem piece.
Planting is in rows about 6 feet apart to make
possible cultivation and use of herbicides for early weed
control. As plants become tall lower leaves along the stems
are shaded and die. These ultimately drop off, so only leaves
toward the top remain green and active. Between the nodes
the stems have a hard, thin, outer tissue or rind and a softer
center. The high?sugar?containing juice is in this center.
More than one crop is harvested from a planting. After the
first crop is removed two or more so?called stubble crops
are obtained. These result from growth of new stalks from
the bases of stalks cut near the ground level in harvesting.
Sugarcane planting takes place from September
through January. Because sugarcane is a multi? species hybrid,
the seed will usually produce plants different than the parents.
Therefore, as with any other plant where this happens, parts
of the mother plant must be planted in order to produce the
desired daughter plant (also called a clone). Stalks, which
ordinarily would be milled for sugar, are harvested from mature
fields, cut into short 20 inch (50 cm) segments, laid in furrow
rows 5 feet (1.5 m) apart, and then covered with soil. Cane
stalks have buds every 2 to 6 inches (5?15 cm) and each of
these buds has the capability to sprout rapidly when buried
in moist soil. Within 2 to 3 weeks shorts emerge and, under
favorable conditions, produce secondary shoots to give a dense
stand of cane.
Machines top the canes at a uniform height,
cut them off at ground level, and deposit them in rows. In
most parts of the world, cane is mainly cut by hand. Leaves
and trash are burned from the cane in the rows by use of flame-
thrower type machines. An alternate method is to burn the
leaves from the standing cane, after which it is cut and taken
directly to the mill. Delay between cutting and milling in
either case should be as short as possible since delay results
in loss of sugar content. Machines are under development that
will cut, clean and load the cane so it can be taken directly
to the mill.
In continental United States, where winter freezing
is a hazard, cane harvest must start earlier than is desirable
for maximum yields. When plants are killed by freezing sugar
loss occurs rapidly. While such plants are suitable for sugar
extraction if harvested promptly after freezing, this may
not be possible when large acreages are involved. In non?mechanized
areas cane is still cut and the leaves stripped off by using
cane knives. This is arduous and time consuming work."
QUESTION: I have 2 fig trees planted beneath the 2-1/2 foot
overhang of the southside of my house, so they don't get much
direct rainfall. They are also highly shaded by large oak
trees to the south and they have not grown much in 3 years.
I have 3 other fig trees planted in the southwest corner of
the backyard that gets sunlight about half the day. I planted
3, thinking that one might survive. All 3 survived and are
growing well, but are not producing figs. I think I planted
them too close. The question is how and when can I transplant
them, and what is the best location with regards to sunlight,
soil conditions etc.?
ANSWER: As with all fruit-bearing plants, figs
require full sunlight for best production. I would say lack
of sunlight is limiting production. However, plant competition
does not help either. The best time to transplant them is
in January or February. Be sure to mulch both the plant and
lower branches with a thick layer of leaf mulch to reduce
the chance of cold injury.
QUESTION: I have red, pink and purple verbena
in hanging baskets around my home and love how they look.
In researching them on your site I found that there is a blue
verbena called "Blue Princess Verbena". I live in
Phoenix, Arizona, and it is not available here, how can I
get some of these plants.
ANSWER: These can be ordered from Tony Avent
at Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina.
QUESTION: How do I winterize my canna lilies?
I plan to bring them into my basement where it is cool, but
do I cover them? Prune them back? Keep them watered or keep
them relative dry? Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated.
ANSWER: I can't tell from your question whether
your cannas are in pots or are in the ground. If they are
in pots, I recommend that you leave them outside until after
the first frost or light freeze. Then cut off the dead vegetation,
bring them inside and forget about them until next spring
when you take them back outside.
QUESTION: Over the past few years we have tried to no avail
to store canna bulbs after the growing season. They either
grow moldy or dry out. Can you please answer the following:
When to store? In what media? Under what atmospheric conditions?
ANSWER: Since down here it never gets cold enough
to freeze the soil, we just leave them in the ground. So I
had to go looking to find the information you requested. This
information is from th University of Wisconsin Extension Service
and can be found at the following URL:
After you dig up tuberous begonias, cannas and
caladiums, air dry them in a well?ventilated area at 70 to
80 degrees F. Cannas and caladiums need 1 week to dry, while
tuberous begonias need 2 to 3 weeks to dry. Once dried, remove
any foliage. Cover the tubers and tuberous roots with perlite,
vermiculite, peat moss or sand. Store the cannas and begonias
at 40 to 50 degrees F. Store caladiums at 55 to 60 degrees
All the plants do best when stored in a cool,
dark and humid place with good ventilation. Fruit cellars
and cool basements work well. Don't store bulbs in an attic
or garage where they may freeze. Store begonias, cannas and
dahlias in shallow boxes. Check your bulbs throughout winter
and discard any shriveled, diseased or insect?infested bulbs.
QUESTION: I have heard of a new spray that can
be applied to trees that loose their leaves (such as hackberry
or mesquite) to eliminate ball moss. Is such a product available?
If so, do you know where I can buy it?
ANSWER: I don't know of any new spray for ball
moss. However, many of the copper fungicides will kill the
ball moss when applied at the proper time. It will not make
the ball moss fall from the tree. Only time will do this since
the dead ball moss will deteriorate and eventually fall. At
this PLANTanswers web site you will find all you need to know
about how to control ball moss:
Ball moss is an epiphyte. It is capable of manufacturing
its own food from nutrients and moisture taken from the air.
Unlike mistletoe, it does not derive its food from the host.
Although often associated with plants that are in an advance
stage of decline, it is not the cause of the decline. In some
areas, the moss becomes so dense, that it possibly is restricting
normal bud development. Although spread is somewhat restricted,
the area of the state where the moss is found continues to
expand. Roughly, ball moss is found within the area formed
by drawing a line from Del Rio to Fredericksburg to College
Station to Bay City to Corpus Christi and back to Del Rio.
Small seed are produced in a capsule on a slender
3 to 5 inch stalk. The stalk extends above the bunchy plant
growth. When mature, the capsule opens and seeds are released
into the air. They are carried by air currents until they
contact the rough bark of the tree. The seed stick onto the
surface and germinate. As the plant grows, root like structures
attach the young plant to the rough surface. In the case of
a tree this is the older bark. Although the structures extend
down into the bark, they are not true roots. They are called
'hold fasts'. Although ball moss will attach itself to many
different rough surfaces, property owners are most concerned
about shade trees.
Control: Ball moss is controlled with foliar
applications of Kocide DF, Blue Shield and Champion are approved
by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These products
are most effective when applied in late winter. The time between
February and mid May is suggested as the best period for treatment.
A rain following treatment application is necessary for maximum
effectiveness. It is speculated that the moss quickly takes
in nutrients through its leaf like structures following rain
or heavy dew. When evaluating the copper fungicides as a control
for ball moss, an application was observed to remain on the
tree for 7 months before significant rain occurred. Soon after
that the moss was observed to die. Retreating is suggested
if the trees are heavily infested. This is necessary because
it's difficult to get complete coverage. It is suggested that
the copper be applied at the rate of 4 to 6 pounds or Kocide
DF or similar type product per 100 gallons of water. Spray
trees to drip point with the spray directed at the moss infested
limbs. Within a few months the moss will have a dry, gray
unthrifty appearance. It be several months after the application,
before the moss will begin to fall from the tree. The hold
fasts will have to decay sufficiently to release the moss
from the bark. Strong windstorms can decrease the time required
for removal of the moss following its death.
Copper is a heavy metal and possibly acts as
a poison that blocks the normal biochemical functions. Copper
can cause foliage burn to some plants and should be used with
caution around plants not listed on the label. Peach, plum,
apricot and nectarine in leaf are especially susceptible to
injury from spray drift. Apples and pears are not affected
by the copper fungicides. Kocide and the other copper hydroxide
fungicides are frequently recommended for the control of fire
blight on pear and apple trees. The fungicides are approved
on a local needs registration in the southeastern United States
for the control of certain pecan diseases. A second concern
is that spray drift can temporarily stain structures a light
blue. Use precaution when applying the copper sprays. Spray
on days when the wind is blowing away from sensitive areas.
It will wash off when exposed to frequent rain.
Mechanical removal has been used successfully.
However, new plants are quickly as new seed land on the limbs.
Safety is also a concern, since moss is present on many of
the small limbs and branches of a tree. This creates an unsafe
condition when trying to remove the moss.