Ever wondered how to grow pecans? In this Backyard Life video, Bone Collector creator Michael Waddell offers up advice on doing just that—as well as a glimpse into life on his family’s South Georgia pecan farm.
In addition to holding down a “day job” as one of the hunting industry’s most notable personalities, Waddell always makes time to pursue his personal passion for archery and shooting sports (as evidenced by the sea of targets set up throughout his orchard). And, as if these endeavors weren’t enough to keep him busy, he and his wife have taken up growing pecans!
Here’s what the Booger Bottom, GA native says he’s learned since purchasing his pecan plantation four years ago, including an honest admission that, “I’m still trying to figure out this pecan stuff.”
Pecan tree varieties
When Waddell and his family purchased their property, its overgrown condition required a good deal of bush hogging and fertilizing to get it back into shape. Then, of course, came determining the different varieties of pecan trees that were growing on it. He quickly learned he had a mix of Stuarts, Schleys, Moneymakers and Mahans. Waddell points out that Stuarts are the best money-making pecans. “It’s a real hardy nut that’s really popular all over the South, especially in South Georgia,” he explains.
Since becoming a pecan farmer, Waddell’s had to learn the proper pronunciation of the nut he’s growing. Everyone in the South—particularly those making money selling them—says “pee – can” as opposed to “puh – kaan,” he says. “If they’re making that kind of money, I’m calling them pee – cans, too!” Waddell jokes.
Waddell admits that it “takes money to make money,” noting the equipment needed to grow and harvest pecans isn’t cheap. Two pieces of general equipment, or “toys,” he uses include a bulldozer to build rows and sprayers to care for the nearly 100-foot-tall trees. Then there’s the more specialized equipment: the pecan shaker and pecan harvester used to actually collect his harvest.
The pecan shaker is Waddell’s favorite piece of equipment, and one that even the neighborhood kids love, as well. “It’s just a big huge beast of a machine with a roll cage and V8 engine, and hydraulics that run up and down and side to side. You can tilt it in any direction you want and grab most any size tree and just shake the fire out of it,” he explains. While he jokes that he’s got the shaking feeling of being at a disco after using it, Waddell views the shaker as, “a vital piece of equipment if you’re in the pecan business.”
The pecan harvester is essentially a giant vacuum that Waddell pulls behind his tractor. Gathered pecans go into a cleaner, which also weeds out the bad ones. From there, the good pecans come out onto a table for personal inspection before they’re placed in super sacks—each one containing around 1,000 to 1200 pounds of pecans.
While he still considers himself a rookie, Waddell’s proud to be a Georgia pecan farmer. And, he’s happy to share what he’s learned to this point. “My wife and I are still learning. We’ve had a good time at this pecan farm. I always thought pecan orchards are beautiful, so it’s been a blessing to own one.”