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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Monday, October 22, 2007

Our Nutty Weekend

A few weeks ago I showed a handful of pecan kernels under the smart-alec caption Ha-Ha Harvest... now I must eat my words - and they are delicious! This is the best pecan year in 3 decades according to Austin, Texas newspaper articles. I don't know who planted ours, but pecan trees may not have been the best choice for a quarter-acre lot. They grow too large and drop something in every season... husks, leaves, pollen flowers, limbs and tent caterpillar debris. The trees were already here when we came, giving shade and once in a long while - bestowing a harvest.

Some of you live where pecans grow so you may have seen the green husks emerging in spring near the long yellowish pollen flowers. Maybe you've also watched the nuts develop as the husks swell all summer long. We had no experience with pecan trees until we saw husks form during our three summers at this house.
If you're a Texan or a Southerner you probably knew what the nuts should look like at harvest time - we had no clue. No edible nuts made it to harvest time here in 2004... or 2005... or 2006. We'd been in a period of drought so the husks were taken unripe by squirrels and only the 'empties' were left behind to fall off - no wonder the online articles didn't tell us how to get the nuts out of those thick green husks - Nature is supposed to do it! This year we finally saw how things are supposed to happen: the husks gradually open and dry up, with the points curling back, revealing the beautiful tawny nut inside. Instead of waiting for them to drop, we got on ladders and took any that looked close to ready before the squirrels got them. They were still hard to open and there were many empties or bad kernels. A post by Susan Albert clued us in that the nuts needed to be dried first. That made a big difference.We had to crack a lot of nuts to get good kernels but when the wonderful Divas of the Dirt showed up on Saturday the table had this arrangement of Texas-grown sunflowers from Whole Foods, and we had nut bread for breakfast - made with our own pecans.
[Thank you, Entangled for making that suggestion in a comment! ]

As a member of the Divas I get one turn a year to be hostess, serving breakfast and lunch to my friends. It's fun to cook for them, and we need fuel to work on whatever garden project the hostess has set up. My last turn was in February of 2006 when the Divas helped me transplant three spiraeas to start the bat-shaped bed. They also moved some large container plants from weather shattered clay pots to unbreakable containers. That day we had off/on rain and barely got to 50º.
This time the weather was sunny with a high of 90º. I asked my friends to get rid of some more lawn grass and enlarge the 28-foot long border along the fence where the Acoma crepe myrtles grow. The bed was too narrow, the edge was uneven and it had become shadier since the crepe myrtles finally 'took'.
Adding a foot-and-a-half along the front edge would make space to move sun plants languishing in shadow.

I won't tell the whole story of what happened on Saturday - that only happens once a year at the end of January on the Diva website - but here's how the long border looked today, after wind, rain and an overnight drop in temperature.
Something else dropped last night - the wind blew down the pecans from the top of the tree where our ladders couldn't reach. We picked up all that we could find, washed them and they're drying on racks in the garage.I hope the proportion of good nuts is high enough for more nut bread - or maybe a traditional Thanksgiving pecan pie.
Some other Austin gardeners have pecan trees, too - and have not had much of a harvest in previous years. Maybe MSS from Zanthan Gardens and Lee from The Grackle were lucky in 2007, too - is anyone else out there enjoying this bumper crop?
Edited October 24: The percentage of good nuts is pretty high - and my scientist husband notes that it's taking about 100 of them to make one pound of shelled pecans. Susan Albert sent a link to LSU's Ag Center with advice on how to store pecans. Thank you, Susan!


  1. Annie: The new garden looks great! Love the rock placement! How many sisters do you have anyway? LOL Everything looks so neat and crisp once you edge and weed. I am in desperate need of the Divas! I will cook for you! Bring some pecans as they look delicious. I also enjoyed your previous post on the evolution of a gardener!

  2. Oooooo your bed along the fence looks so neat.

    You made me hungry showing that yummy looking nut bread. I even like to eat pecans like popcorn one right after the other.

  3. The power of suggestion goes full circle ;-) I just had a couple of slices of pecan bread for breakfast. Our pecans come from the grocery store though. :-(

    Maybe the Divas of the Dirt could franchise themselves? It sounds like such a wonderful way to enjoy camaraderie while actually getting something done!

  4. I love the diva idea...and I am so entranced by your pecans! I can't even imagine how tasty they must be, all homegrown and fresh. Delicious!

  5. We definitely have a LOT of pecans this year. As you wrote, I've never been able to gather any pecans from my tree because the squirrels eat them green in August. Not this year. There are still pecans on the tree and now the husks are opening to reveal them. Margaret and I have been picking them. I hope that there are some good ones among them. If so, I will make my mother's special pecan pralines. First, though, I need to go buy a nutcracker.

  6. Isn't it nice that the pecan tree finally dropped something you can use, like actual pecans? The bread looks delicious and the newly expanded garden border looks fabulous. The Divas did a great job. Let us know if you get enough pecans for a whole pie.

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  7. Wow, you had a great harvest of pecans after all. I love eating pecans raw but hate picking them out of the shells and cleaning them of the bitter membrane that separates the halves. They are great in cookies too.

    I wish we had a bunch of workers descend upon our yard to do some edging and extend some of our berms. Must be nice to have a gang of like minded workers. As my mom used to say "many hands make light work"...one of her favorite homilies. I see you placed your plumeria in the border too. How the plant has grown! Do you overwinter it in your home?

  8. Layanee, thank you - way more rocks than sisters - just two of them ;-]

    Start your own Divas! But remember, for each day the Divas are here, I spend 6 workdays at the other Divas' gardens.

    Hello Lisa, I've been thinking about that bed-expansion for a long time.

    Many of the local 'fest' events feature pecans roasted in honey, cinnamon, hot pepper, etc. You might like them!

    You talked yourself into it, Entangled?

    We've tried to spread the word! After the newspaper article last year a few local people tried making their own groups, but it takes a high level of commitment.

    Genie, this is my seventh season as a Diva of the Dirt - one of the best things that ever happened to me!

    We'd never eaten a pecan fresh off a tree until a few days ago. Or any kind of nut fresh off a tree.

    Oh, good, MSS, you will love them! I think that last wind blew ours all down. We have a nutcracker but Philo prefers a hammer. Pecan pralines?? Very Southern sounding!

    Carol, after 3 years of nothing but cleanup, I feel like the Little Red Hen: Who will eat this pecan? ME, the one with the rake, dang it!

    When Philo read my post this morning he cracked enough of the dry ones to ensure that pecan pie!

    That fence gets a lot of sun, so working there was really hot on Saturday, but we had enough energy left to visit a nearby nursery.

    It surprised me too, Ki - this was a rare year for rain. I always buy pecans to make Christmas cookies like Mexican Wedding Cakes.

    One of the fun parts of descending on each person's yard once a year is that we all know each other's plants and gardens - and we get to see what's happened to projects from other years.

    This one is a yellow-flowering plumeria started from a stick in 2002. It goes into the garage each winter. It's been on the patio in summer but was not getting enough sun.

    I decided to make a permanent staging area in that part of the border, using the saved bottom from a very large terra cotta pot that cracked as a sort of platform. An abelia was growing in that spot - it's now in the front yard. When the plumeria goes inside I can put a container of pansies on the platform or some other winter annual.

    Thank you for the comments !


  9. I have experience gathering walnuts, but not pecans. I know my father planted a pecan tree at the house in italy, but when I was there I couldn't tell if it had survived or not, because I wasn't sure what they look like...duh.
    The pecan bread looks delicious.

  10. Thanks for sharing all the great pictures and your success story. Pecan trees are so messy, but when that harvest comes in, it's truly amazing. After reading your post, I think there should be one in my future just beyond the back fence where it will have room to grow and "drop" to its heart's content outside of my yard!

  11. Annie, that's a pecan harvest! Lucky you. And how nice to be the recipient of the Divas' labors, the enlarged bed looks wonderful. Mmm, a pecan pie for Thanksgiving, now there's food for thought!

  12. Your harvest seems so delicious dear Annie.
    I haven't heard of a Pecan tree in my part, but your nutty post has me yearning for one. Anyways, nuts or no nuts for me, I had an appetising vicarious pleasure enjoying the scrumptious looking nut bread.

  13. So that's how pecan nuts look on a tree.

    I thought the garden bed was looking fine before the renovation...what a difference that made!

  14. Annie, I'm glad you're reaping the bounty of your pecan tree at last. I don't have one, but my neighbors do, and quite a few pecans turn up in my yard, many of them loosely buried by squirrels. Just walking down the block we find many on the sidewalks and in the street.

    Lacking a nutcracker or hammer on those walks, we often opt for opening them with a shoe. Just a little pressure will do the trick for the popular Papershells, and then we have a little snack for the road.

  15. How nice to have the bed expanded and looking so nice! I imagine you work hard together but have a lot of fun too. And your pecan crop is so exciting! Maybe it's a benefit of global warming...

  16. Ok, Annie. This is a first. Sure, I'm not a true gardener but I never knew anyone who grew pecans. You are full of surprises! Love pecans in any recipe. I'm feeling hungry. Thanks a lot.

  17. Nice to see you had a bountiful harvest. Pecans don't grow here (I think) so it was fun to see the different stages.

    Must be interesting to see the gardens in person that you read about and see on the internet.

  18. Well Annie, you finally got your harvest of pecan nuts. Mmmmm, home made nut bread, delicious!

    Over here there are no pecan trees so I didn't know how the nuts developed either but now I know thanks to you!

    The long border looks much better the way it is now.

  19. The Divas did a great job! It looks beautiful.

    How wonderful it must be to have your own pecan tree.

    A friend from work used to give me a big sack of pecans each year from his relatives in Georgia. I would spend weeks just cracking them all. It's quite a job to get them cleaned up so that bitter stuff his gone. I used to freeze them.

    Unfortunately for me, the relatives moved. I sure miss those pecans!

  20. Oooh, now i'm suffering from pecan envy...I can only imagine what it's like to eat a pecan fresh from your own tree. I'm thinking about putting in a heartnut (a kind of walnut) mostly because of the beautiful tree it makes; but I need to make sure that the plant isn't toxic to horses, like black walnut is. Just in case horse or idiot-donkey escape (rarely happens) and try snacking on the garden.

  21. That's so exciting to actually grow nuts in your yard. I'm going to have to do some research and see what I can grow in my area.

    By the way that border looks fantastic.

  22. Annie, how wonderful for you! (And for Philo, who is apparently is in dire need of a pecan pie. *grin*) It was so interesting to see the stages of the nut development, too... I've never eaten any kind of nut fresh off of the tree, so it was a great education.

    And that bed... I'm agree with whoever above said that it looked good to me before, but after: Wow! You girls do great work, too--it looks lush and full already, not like it was just done last week.

  23. I remember well sitting beneath the pecan tree and eating my fill before gathering them up to carry to the house. If I put two in my fist and squeezed hard, one would crack. Since I was a kid I never bothered to notice how they grew or fell from the pods so this was very interesting for me to read.

    The border looks great! It must be wonderful to plan a major project and know that you'll be able to finish it.

  24. Nice Nuts.
    We used to have walnut trees.
    I have rotten bananas and I was just about
    to make banana bread.
    I could use some of those nuts.
    Hey, have you ever made pecan sandies?

  25. That was a lucky wind, leaving you a fine harvest.
    And lucky you to have Philo who is willing to crack all those nuts :) The pecan bread sounds delicious and I'm sure the Divas appreciated it.
    What fun to work with a group! It must make the job so much easier, and fun to boot. Your enlarged border looks wonderful. Isn't it amazing how quickly a garden seems too narrow...or too short?

  26. Hello Anna maria, and welcome back from your journey. I've read that it takes at least 7 years before a young tree begins to bear pecans, sometimes takes a lot longer - would it have been old enough?

    Diana - they sure are messy, but this part is fun. Your plan to have one on the edge makes sense!

    Hi LostRoses - it's not huge, just a few pounds, but there's something so amazing about them just falling off the tree!

    Green Thumb, the pecan is a native tree here in Texas and it can take some cold weather. Your home seems more tropical - can you can grow other nuts like Almonds?

    Welcome Blueblue, thanks for visiting! Can people in Australia grow pecans? Are they commonly seen in your stores? It's hard to guess whether food items are local or international.

    Thank you, Pam/Digging - I can see the tops of a few other pecan trees in my neighborhood, but only in the back yards. The idea of walking around the block having nutty snacks is quite charming!

    Hello Leslie - it is fun to work together! Wide swings from drought to flood is normal for Central Texas - from what I've read, pecans mainly grew along streams here, so they'd get steady water - the commercial pecan orchards are in the wetter east part of Texas.

    Mary, it's new to us, too - and who knows if it will happen again. Someone else planted these trees at least 20 years ago.

    Hello Digital Flower Pictures - you generally hear of them in Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennesee, etc. - but I think some kinds bear nuts even in Zone 6.

    I've been lucky enough to visit a few gardens belonging to Austin gardeners - and hope to see others some day!

    Yolanda, we know a lot more about them - if there's another good year we'll know to grab them fast before the squirrels take them!

    Thank you Zoey, it was work and fun at the same time.

    I've always appreciated the shade from the trees, but this is the first time they gave us anything to eat! Sacks of pecans! We're happy with what we got, but sacks!?! Wow.

    Jodi, they taste different from one in a bag, and so far we're not tired of them! But for recipes, a little toasting makes them better.

    One of the other garden bloggers [think it's Genie in Iowa]has a black walnut - never heard that it made nuts, but it puts chemicals into the surrounding area that inhibit growth so other plants die. Can you grow filberts/Hazelnuts? That always sounded interesting, too.

    Thank you Anthony - it will be interesting to see what your research turns up.

    Blackswamp Kim, Philo is a guy - ever known one that could resist pie? Picking up a pecan, cracking it and eating was a totally new experience for us!

    The stuff in that bed was so crowded - some plants buried under others. I'm very interested to see whether more space and sun will make a difference next spring.

    Oh Apple - they do seem like magic - although you must have had a lot more than we do - it's more hunt and peck than gather up!

    I've learned to save this kind of project for my annual turn - doing it a bit at a time is possible, but the plants were out of the ground a shorter time this way, and the dramatic change is fun.

    Chigiy, I like walnuts but they don't like me - so I'm glad our trees were pecans! My grandmother always waited until the bananas were turning black to make bread.

    One of the Divas was talking about Pecan Sandies, which her dad used to make - but I'll have to look them up - never made them .....yet!!

    The wind came just in time, Kerri, because the squirrels were getting all the high-up nuts - they had fits watching us pick up the ones that blew down.

    That border was covered in black plastic when we moved in - I knew it was too small, but at the time just wanted somewhere to transplant the white crepe myrtles. Widening it has been on my wish list for a long time!

    Thank you all - hope you have a great weekend!


  27. Annie... when I was at the nursery yesterday looking at trees, I found a few pecan trees for sale. I thought of you and your big pecan harvest and also what you said about how messy they are and decided to pass it on by. It was pretty small, so I'm not even sure I'd be the one to be around to enjoy the harvest whenever it happened. We garden bloggers learn a lot from each other!

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  28. Good call, Carol! If I had an acre or two, even at my age I'd plant a couple of pecans in a separate, woodland-type section. But once you subtract the footage covered by house, garage, patio, shed and driveway, we have barely 1/8 acre actually available for planting.

    So when we pick up the nuts we're trampling the grass, trying to avoid cracking ornamental shrubs, gingerly stepping around perennials, etc. And also digging up the nuts already planted by squirrels!


  29. Wow! What a fun post, Annie! My old BF's mom lived in Plano, and had a pecan tree in the yard. It was messy, but dropped nuts very regularly (likely 60"tall-old to be sure), she used hers, too. YUM-that pecan bread looks so good, I swear I can smell it! I agree with other comments, the border was already nice, but now it pops!

  30. Hi Annie,
    You always inspire me! Loved your entire post, but the photo of the pecan husk opening up was amazing. Your garden looks just wonderful. I think it was also you who inspired me to do away with most of my front yard. Come take a look on my blog. I have just begun. All the neighbors keep coming by to check up on me...I think I'm scaring them. Hope the homeowner's association doesn't freak out! :) See you, Chris

  31. Annie - your long border looks just beautiful - your rocks made me laugh because during each trip to Virginia of late I've been returning with quartz rocks from the fields/woods around my parent's place. They look great in your garden!

    I had to laugh at your 'scientist husband's' observation - his information is sort of the bottom line, isn't it? In terms of making that pie...

  32. do you know of places in Austin that will shell the pecans for us. I have so many and googling "pecan shelling austin tx" got me nowhere.

  33. Hello Lisa - so you know what it's like! Our tree might be 40' - we think it's over 20 years old, but less than 30. Thanks for the border comment!

    I enjoyed seeing your project, Chris! There are lots of bloggers who are getting rid of grass this year - hope you get a positive reaction from your neighbors and that the HOA is progressive!

    Pam, thank you - we know a place that lets us take rocks out of their discard pile - but also have a few we've dragged from other states.

    Philo can't help it! He had an organized briefcase when he was 18 years old.

    Welcome Joan - I can't resist a challenge to google something!

    In October 2006 Jane Greig mentioned that some senior centers shell pecans for a fee - [think it's like 30 to 40 cents a pound]. This is a major fundraiser for the organization. She gave these numbers - hope they're still valid:

    The Senior Activity Center, 2874 Shoal Crest Ave., 474-5921.

    The Round Rock Senior Activity Center, 205 E. Main St. Call 218-5499.

    Good luck!


  34. I had as much fun reading the comments as I did the post! Your new border looks great - the Divas did a wonderful job.

    On Saturday I thought of you as I noticed the pecans were on sale and bought some for chocolate chip cookies. Coming here and reading your pecan post made my day. I am looking forward to seeing pictures of the pecan pie ...

  35. Annie, please save me a piece of that nut bread. The photograph made my mouth water. I love pecans. Lucky you!

    I love looking at the photographs on your blog. It's like stepping right into your garden.

  36. Wow! What a fabulous bumper crop of pecans! Lucky you! I don't think they'd have a chance here with all the squirrels around. I hope you have plenty for a Thanksgiving pie, and then some. I love pecans in those "turtle" candies (wrapped in caramel and chocolate). Mmmmm.

  37. Hey Annie, Yes we can buy pecans in Aus.

    But no Blue and I can't grow them around the Brisbane area in South East Queensland. It's way too hot. But further south they can and do. ABout the only nut really suitable here is the native and endemic Macadamia Nut.

  38. Annie, this post really brought back some good memories. My sweet in-laws had a huge pecan tree in their backyard in Alabama. My husband's grandfather somehow managed to get perfect halves so he was the one who usually cracked the nuts for us. I miss those pecans at holiday time because they are so expensive now that I have to buy them.

  39. Kate, putting those pecans in chocolate chip cookies sounds like a wonderful idea! And I agree, the comments are wonderful. Yay for the garden blogosphere!

    Josie, I'd make you anything you wanted from pecans if you ever travel to Austin.

    Hello Christa - if I were gone all day we wouldn't have too many - I went outside every hour and scouted around for new fallen pecans before those tree rats got them ;-]

    Funny thing .... Philo also mentioned trying to make Turtles!

    Hello again, Bare Bones Gardener - thanks for the answer. Nuts seem to be very particular about where they'll grow - having Macadamias doesn't sound like a hardship!

    Hi Robin, I like your nostalgic story about your in-laws. There's a warning in it: competence at something can mean you're stuck forever with that job ;-]

    Thank you all,


  40. Oh, I am so jealous of your pecans. It is just a leetle too cold here for them. The nuts here, hickory and black walnut, are very tasty but Sooo hard to get out of their shells.

    I like the garden border expansion. Looks good. I'm glad I'm not the only one working obsessively on making more garden and less grass.


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