How to water fruit trees


How to Water Fruit Trees in Hot Climates The Right Way

Learning the art of watering fruit trees can be one of the most challenging things for beginning gardeners. Gardening in places with frequent rainfall can make life a bit easier, but If you’re living in a hot climate that sees very little rainfall, that compounds the issue.  Through my years of gardening in a desert climate, I’ve gained a solid understanding of how to water fruit trees. I hope that sharing this knowledge will help bring clarity by answering questions regarding, “how much and how often should I water.”

What is the best way to water a fruit tree?  The best way to water a fruit tree is on a slow drip system.  This can be accomplished through utilizing an irrigation system set-up to a timer, with things like drip emitters, soakers, or bubblers.  Another way to achieve this type of watering is to water with a hose on a slow drip, while move the hose around the base of the tree at designated time intervals.   Watering in a way that’s going to moisten the soil to at least a depth of 3 feet around the root zone is optimal.

Preparing the Area for Watering

After planting your fruit tree, the area is going to need some preparation for an effective watering method.  There are several different methods that can be useful ways to get water to your tree.  Here are a few to consider:

Basin

I create basins for all my newly planted fruit trees.  When the tree has been planted a basin can be formed by piling excess soil about a foot high forming a ring around the tree.  The ring should be out at least as wide as the canopy of the tree, for young small trees, I do 2-3 feet outside the canopy.  This basin can be widened over time as the tree grows larger.  A basin allows for the root zone to be flooded several times while allowing the water to seep into the root zone.  It helps keep the water contained into the area that you want it, instead of running all over the place.  

Hose

I know this sounds crazy, but for several years I’ve watered all my plants and fruit trees with a hose.   I have several raised garden beds and around 35 fruit trees or fruiting plants.  Needless to say it’s time consuming.  Watering with a hose has its benefits.  Since I’m not relying on an automatic system to do the job, I’m out with the plants more and catch potential problems immediately.  I can observe any potential pest problems as they start or when a plant seems to show signs of stress. You may find this post helpful: 7 Reasons Why Your Fruit Trees are Losing Leaves.  When things are automated, you begin to make the assumption that everything is working fine, and often identify the problems too late. 

Flood Irrigation

In the Phoenix, Arizona area where I reside, some homes are fortunate to be set-up on flood irrigation.  For a low cost, every couple weeks, the yard is completely flooded with canal water.   This allows for deep watering for your fruit trees developing healthy root structures.  Another plus is that canal water contains less salts and can alleviate some of the problems with salt build-up.  This is a great option, but unfortunately isn’t readily available for most homeowners.

Drip System

This is the way to go when it comes to setting up an irrigation system.  There are several options from bubblers to drip emitters that provide that slow source of water to seep deep into the soil.  It’s important to make sure that you’re still frequently checking your system for any potential leaks.  A slow drip encourages the roots to grow deep versus stay on the surface. 

Shallow watering leads to surface roots which are the roots that tend to disrupt walls, concrete, and homes.  Trees are more likely to be uprooted from strong winds with shallow roots.  Use enough drip lines to ensure the whole root zone is able to be soaked and continuously move the drip line further out as the tree grows.   If you leave the drip near the trunk for the duration of the tree, the roots that have grown out won’t be getting the necessary water.

Collecting Rain Water/Grey Water

Greywater systems are designed for conserving water.  Utilization of water from the shower, washing machine, or sinks can be funneled through a system to use in your landscape.  This can help with reducing the cost of water and excess use.  Likewise, systems can be set-up to collect and store rain water.  Rain water is the best for plants, since it doesn’t have the added salts and contaminates like tap water. 

Sprinkler Systems

Sprinklers are great for watering lawns, but aren’t recommended for fruit trees.  When you use sprinklers, a lot of the water evaporates in the air, and it’s harder to promote deep watering.  You’re more likely to see problems, which have previously been discussed, regarding shallow watering or salt build-up.

How Long Should I Water

There are a couple keys to determining how long you should water.   One is the size of the tree.  It’s a good rule of thumb to provide at least as much water as the size of the tree.  For example, a tree in a 15 gallon container will need 15 gallons of water.  If using a drip system, emitters tend to range from 0.5-2 gallons per hour.  So, a tree with two emitters that have a flow of 2GPH, would mean that the tree is getting 4 gallons of water every hour.  It would take 3 hours to accomplish the needs of thoroughly watering a 15 gallon size tree.  Using this formula can help you to set your irrigation system up to meet the needs of your fruit trees.

If you’re using a hose, see how long it takes to fill a gallon and do the math from there.  If you prefer a more streamlined method, The Zilker Water Hose Faucet Timer is an amazing smart product that can be synched with your phone.  It allows you to connect to your hose while monitoring the gallons, inches, leaks, and more with your smart device.  Click the photo below for purchase options:

Another factor to ponder, is how deep the water is seeping into the soil.   The root zone should be moist to a depth of about 3 feet.  Using a probe can help you determine if the root zone is still moist by pushing the probe into the soil as far as it will go.  If the soil is wet, the probe will easily move through the soil.  Sterilize the probe with rubbing alcohol before using it on another tree to prevent potentially spreading disease.

When Should I Water

The main factor that I pay attention to when deciding when to water is the outdoor temps.  In the Phoenix, Arizona desert where I reside, temps can significantly fluctuate from day time highs to night time lows.  A high of 75 degrees Fahrenheit may seem pleasantly warm, but temps may plummet into the 30’s Fahrenheit that night.   

So, if the lows are still remaining quite cool, compared to the highs that tells me to water a bit less.  As temps start to go into the 80’s Fahrenheit, I start increasing the watering frequency.  Typically I water very little in the winter months, maybe not even at all if we get a steady amount of rain.   If you are watering deeply, then you won’t need to water as frequent. 

CITRUS TREES

CelsiusFahrenheitFrequency
21-2670’sEvery 14 days
26-3280’sEvery 10-14 days
32-3790’sEvery 7-10 days
37-40100’sEvery 5-7 days
Over 40EXTREME Over 105’sEvery 5 days

STONE FRUITS/TEMPERATE FRUIT TREES

CelsiusFahrenheitFrequency
21-2670’sEvery 7-10 days
26-3280’sEvery 7 days
32-3790’sEvery 5-7 days
37-40100’sEvery 5 days
Over 40EXTREME over 105’sEvery 3-5 days

TROPICAL FRUIT TREES

CelsiusFahrenheitFrequency
21-2670’sEvery 5-7 days
26-3280’sEvery 3-5 days
32-3790’sEvery 3 days
37-40100’sEvery 2-3 days
Over 40EXTREME over 105’sEvery 1-3 days

*Keep in mind that these are approximations I utilize for watering in a hot, dry climate. See below for additional factors to consider.

Things to Consider

Having a general idea of when to water or how long to water definitely helps, but there are so many other factors at play.  I know that beginning gardeners would love an exact guide that states water your Orange tree for 1 hour every Thursday, then prepare to harvest oranges, but every yard is different.  Reading my post: Importance of Microclimates for Backyard Gardening, may help you to gain a better understanding of the unique climate conditions from backyard to backyard.  Here are some additional things to take into consideration when watering:

Size

Smaller plants and trees are going to need more frequent watering then an established large tree.  Newly planted trees will need frequent watering the first week or two after planting.

Wind

Wind can cause trees to dry out rapidly, especially the hot, dry winds we get in the desert. Think of a blow dryer on your trees for several hours.   It’s always a good idea to water immediately following a major wind storm. 

Shade

Trees that are in full sun all day are naturally going to need more frequent watering then trees that are in some shade. Have an idea of how much shade your fruit tree is getting relative to the amount of sun exposure. Keep that in mind when considering when to water.

Container Grown

Trees that are in containers are going to dry out faster and will need to be watered more frequent.  The entire root system is above ground and exposed to the hot air.  Different types of containers will influence how fast the tree dries out, but it’s still going to be more often than trees in the ground. Here is my Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in Containers.

Soil Type

Know what type of soil you’re working with.  If you have heavy clay soil, it’s going to retain more moisture then a sandy soil.   With that being said, deeply watering a clay soil, is going to need less frequent watering than a fast draining soil.

Variety of Tree

Having a basic understanding of the type of fruit tree you’re growing will help you to understand the watering needs.  Tropical fruit trees are native to environments that are getting heavy amounts of rainfall, so these trees will need more frequent irrigation in hot, dry climates than other types of fruit trees.  Citrus trees like a good soak, then being allowed to somewhat dry out before watering again.  Some fruit trees like to be consistently moist.

Rootstocks

The rootstock that a tree is grafted too can impact its watering needs.  I have a Plum tree that is grafted onto a citation rootstock that likes to stay constantly moist, so I water that tree in the summer more like I would a tropical tree.

Final Thoughts

Determining the watering needs of fruit trees in an environment that lacks rainfall, can be a challenge for even the experienced gardener.   When you start to have a basic understanding and some guidelines it takes a lot of the guessing and worrying out of the equation.  Identifying some of the factors that go into properly watering your tree, along with some basic knowledge will go a long way. 

Please comment below on anything that you’ve found helpful from this post or your experience watering fruit trees in a hot climate. 

photo credit: JobyOne Drip irrigation via photopin (license)

Watering Fruit Trees: When to Do it, and When to Avoid it

Watering Fruit Trees: When to Do it, and When to Avoid it

If you know best practices for watering fruit trees after planting and when they're established, you'll create a healthy bounty of sweet gems like apples, oranges, avocados and more!

So you want to start growing your own fruit trees. You have picked out one or two you want to try, but you still have some questions. Do you have the time for watering fruit trees? How fast will your fruits grow? And will you finally get to taste a freshly-plucked apple / pear / plum / orange / avocado /insert your favorite here? Is now your time to become the neighborhood baker of the best apple pies? Will you start your own peach orchard? Is now your time to accomplish your fruit tree dreams?

The answer is yes, always yes. But let’s start with one pesky detail that might help you determine which fruit tree you want to buy: watering fruit trees.

Every fruit tree is different, but in general, you should water weekly the first year they’re in the ground.

Many fruit trees below require what’s called a “deep soak” which generally requires 40 minutes of watering to reach depths of 12-24 inches.

Watering may also depend on the soil they’re planted in. For example, a pear tree planted in regular soil needs to be watered twice a week, but if it’s planted in clay, it only needs it once a week.

When planting and maintaining fruit trees, it’s best to stick to watering fruit trees according to the instructions for your specific fruit. Even the varietal can make a difference. But in general terms, these are the types of watering habits you can expect from the most popular types of fruit trees.

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Watering Fruit Trees

Avocados ready for harvesting

When to Water Avocado Trees: Once it’s planted, water the entire area under your new tree’s canopy every other day for a week. A new tree can hold up to about 2 gallons of water at planting. After that, water two or three times a week for a couple of months, continuing this if no rain falls for five or more days. The idea is to allow the soil to dry out slightly before you water again. The roots will stay in the top 6 inches of soil, so they’ll dry out quickly. Once the tree is mature, you’ll need to water about 2 inches’ worth every week during the summer. Tip: When watering, apply the water at the base of the tree and avoid getting the leaves or trunk wet. Excessive moisture around the base of the tree causes dothiorella canker and phytophthora canker collar rot. If these problems occur, scrape the trunk to remove the affected bark.

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When to Water Peach Trees: Water peach trees at least weekly during the first year in the ground. Established trees need a regular supply of water throughout any growing season, but keep in mind you’ll get the most succulent, juicy fruit by keeping the soil evenly moist, not excessively wet.

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When to Water Apple Trees: Water apple trees at least weekly during the first year in the ground. Since apple trees are generally planted in zones with plenty of rainfall, there’s no watering requirement for established trees unless you’re having a particularly dry summer.

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When to Water Orange Trees: Once in the ground, water twice a week until it shows new growth. Then, let it dry between every watering and deep-water every two weeks or so. In a tropical climate where there is plenty of rain, you may not need to water at all.

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When to Water Lemon Trees: Lemon trees need to be watered similarly to orange trees. Once in the ground, water twice a week until it shows new growth. Then, let it dry between every watering and deep-water every two weeks if you haven’t had significant rainfall.

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When to Water Apricot Trees: Apricot trees like water when they are producing fruits and should be watered twice per week. When watering, you should be soaking the ground from a foot to 18” deep, which you can use a watering meter to measure.

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When to Water Plum Trees: Plum trees are water lovers, too. They want soil to be moist up to 24 inches deep, so a sprinkler is often required to truly flood the area every two weeks or so, which should do the trick.

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When to Water Cherry Trees: Cherry trees might as well be Pisces, because like apricot and plum trees, they love water and their first year makes a huge difference. After planting, water deeply every other day for a week, then every two days for a week. After that, water them once a week for the whole season.

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When to Water Pear Trees: Pears, too, like water, but not too much water. When planting, you’ll want to give the tree a deep soak, but once it’s established and fruiting, an inch of water a week it all it needs and can come from a single rainstorm.

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General signs of under-watering fruit trees include:
  • Leaves that are wilted or curling
  • Leaves displaying fall colors, turning brown, red and yellow
  • Leaves that are dropping off the tree

In citrus trees like lemon trees, this can be tricky, because generally lemon trees will hold their leaves until you water them, so you might think watering them is causing the problem, in reality it’s the dryness.

General signs of over-watering fruit trees include: 
  • A base that stays wet and moist and never dries out
  • New growth that quickly shrinks, turns color, or wilts
  • Leaves that simply appear to be holding more water but may crumble when you pull them.

Once your fruit trees are in the ground for a year or more, they can handle less maintenance and manual watering. The weather may be enough to keep them sufficiently moist when planted in their ideal planting zones. However, in that first year, paying attention to guidelines given for your specific tree will make all the difference.

Do you agree with these guidelines on watering fruit trees? What’s your experience?

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How to properly water trees and bushes in the garden

All plants in the garden need moisture. Fruit trees and shrubs are no exception in this regard. The only question is how to properly water these plants? Let's figure it out.

Young plants are watered first when planting. Further, the seedlings need moisture so that they take root faster, develop and prepare for the formation of fruits. A fertile garden also requires watering - to form a quality crop.

How much water does the garden need? It is very difficult to answer this question right away, since a lot depends on the weather, the condition of the soil, as well as the age and needs of the plant. Therefore, it is impossible to water all crops in the same way, as many gardeners do. How will be correct?

When is the first watering of horticultural crops?

Usually it is enough to water the trees in the garden 2-3 times during the summer season, and 3-4 times in dry weather. At the same time, specimens that have just been planted are recommended to be watered 2-3 times a month for better survival. The first watering is carried out at the end of May - the first half of June, depending on the crop.

Culture

First watering time

Strawberries, currants, gooseberries

Late May - early June

Apple tree

Early June

Plum, cherry plum, cherry, pear

First half of June

Grapes

Before sap flow, before bud break

Irrigation rate for fruit trees

When irrigating trees , the water rate changes depending on the age of the crop:

  • seedling - 30-50 liters of water;
  • 3-5 year old trees - 50-80 l;
  • 7-12 year olds - 120-150 liters;
  • older - 30-50 liters per 1 sq. m of the trunk circle.

Under berry bushes it is necessary to pour 40-60 liters of water per 1 sq.m. Strawberries are watered at the rate of 20-30 liters per 1 sq.m (during the formation of the crop).

But it is important to understand that there are many conditions that should be taken into account when watering the garden. For example, it is necessary to take into account the composition of the soil on the site. On sandy soil, the number of irrigations should be increased, and the water rate should be reduced. At the same time, on a clay substrate, the irrigation rules change exactly the opposite. It is also worth paying attention to the landscape features of the backyard territory: if the water flows down the slope, the plants in the garden may not receive the amount of moisture they need.

Features of watering plants during the season

Apple and pear

These crops require heavy watering in May-July and moderate watering in August-September. If the summer is hot, water the apple tree and pear 3-4 times per season, and if it is also dry, 4-5 times.

Plum and cherry plum

Stone fruits are quite demanding on soil and air moisture. Most of all they need watering in spring and in the first half of summer. And plums, among other things, equally poorly tolerate both lack and excess moisture.

Grapes

It is enough to water the grapes once a month, and if it rains, even less often. The main thing is not to water superficially, but so that water flows to the roots, for example, you can dig an irrigation tube into the ground. Grapes are not watered before flowering and during it.

Cherry

Cherries should not be watered too often: water compacts the soil and displaces oxygen from it. Four waterings per season is enough: during the active growth of shoots at the end of June, during the ripening of berries in July (in dry weather) and at the end of the season (the last decade of September).

Gooseberry, currant

Gooseberry bushes should be watered under the root. You can make special grooves so that water does not spread over the surface, but goes directly to the roots. Water should penetrate to a depth of about 50 cm. Both plants need to be watered three times per season, especially during the formation of berries.

Strawberry

During fruiting and in dry summers, strawberries are watered more often, sometimes once every 7-10 days. If the soil around the bushes is dry and crumbles in your hands, it's time to water the strawberries.

Many gardeners make the mistake of watering their plants often but little by little. Such watering will not bring much benefit, since moisture does not reach the roots of horticultural crops, but remains in the upper layers of the soil. At the same time, the bulk of the roots of fruit trees is at a depth of 50-70 cm.

Basic garden watering methods

Surface watering

This type involves watering in the near-stem circles. To carry it out under the trees, you need to organize recesses with sides to get the so-called "bowl". The diameter of the near-stem circle should be equal to the diameter of the crown, so it can change every year.

Trees can also be watered in furrows. This method is suitable for a flat area where all the trees grow side by side. To do this, furrows up to 30 cm wide should be cut between the rows, into which water can be supplied when irrigated from a hose. After the water is absorbed, the furrows must be covered.

Irrigation

With this method of irrigation, not only the soil is moistened, but also the air around the plants, and sometimes the green mass. The main condition for such irrigation is a constant pressure of water, which does not flow in a continuous stream, but is sprayed in the form of an aqueous suspension. Sprinkling is good for sloping areas, because such irrigation does not erode the topsoil (the most fertile). But this is also a more costly method of irrigation, since for its implementation it is necessary to purchase special equipment.

Subsurface irrigation

In this method of irrigation, water is supplied through pipes laid in the ground directly to the roots of plants. At the same time, water consumption is reduced by 3 times, which is a significant plus. But subsoil irrigation also has a minus: laying pipes is a laborious and costly process. But when watering through pipes, it is not necessary to cut furrows and loosen the soil.

Proper watering of plants is the key to a rich harvest, so do not treat this activity with disdain. Each culture requires attention during care, including irrigation with water.

How to water fruit trees in autumn - the secrets of water recharge irrigation

Trees spend most of their water during the period when shoots are actively growing and fruits are ripening. Should you water your garden in the fall? Let's figure it out together.

In autumn, the garden also needs watering - this will help the trees survive the frost. So do not rush to hide buckets and watering cans: until severe frosts come, they will still be useful to you.

Why water trees in autumn

Trees are watered to saturate them with moisture that evaporates from the surface of leaves and branches. In winter, despite frosts, the process of evaporation of moisture continues, although this happens much more slowly. Therefore, trees that did not absorb enough liquid before wintering, in the cold season, under the influence of low temperatures, begin to "dry out". To prevent this from happening, the plants need to be well watered until stable frosts have set in.

In addition, well-drained soil conducts heat better and thus protects tree roots from frostbite.

How to determine if fruit trees need to be watered in autumn

It is believed that if there are frequent and heavy rains in autumn, additional moisture is not necessary. However, it is also important to consider what the summer was like. If it was dry and arid, the autumn rains would not be enough.

There is a better way to check if a garden needs autumn watering. To determine the degree of soil moisture, you need to dig a hole 30-50 cm deep in the garden between the trees and take a handful of earth from there. If it is easy to form a dense ball out of it, you do not need to water the garden. If the earth does not crumple, but crumbles in your hands, the garden needs watering.

A more accurate answer can be obtained by placing a clod of earth removed from the pit on a sheet of newspaper or paper napkin.

  • If the soil leaves a wet trail, the garden does not need to be watered.
  • If the lump is dense and wet, but leaves no trace on the paper, you still need to water the trees, but you should reduce the amount of water by 1/3.
  • If the clod of earth is dry and crumbles, the trees need full watering.

Rules for winter watering trees

When watering the garden, moisten the soil abundantly. Watering in small doses weakens the plants. Mature trees must be watered so that moisture penetrates the ground to a depth of 1-1.5 m. The minimum threshold is 0.6-0.7 m.

A young tree planted this year or the previous year usually requires about 40 liters (4 buckets) of water. Older trees (10-15 years old) require from 50 to 70 liters of water, and for adults - up to 100 liters of water.

When watering in autumn, it is important not to overdo it and not overwater the trees. Too much water can force the air out of the soil, often resulting in the death of roots in plants.

When irrigating in autumn, you should also take into account the characteristics of the soil on the site. Areas with poor drainage and high groundwater should be watered very carefully. In this case, it is recommended to moisten the soil to a depth of 100 cm.

What is water recharge watering of trees? This procedure is especially important for regions where autumn is usually dry and the soil often dries up.

Winter water recharge irrigation provides not only sufficient moisture, but also creates the best conditions for trees to endure low temperatures well. In addition, moist soil is less prone to freezing than dry soil.

This type of irrigation is essential for fruit trees and coniferous crops. It is desirable to water all trees on a sunny day.

When to water fruit trees in autumn

Water-charging watering is carried out after mass leaf fall. At this time, the air temperature drops so much that the roots of the trees cease to consume moisture in large quantities. If you water before the start of leaf fall, you can provoke the growth of shoots - especially for young trees. In this case, the plants will not winter well and will not be able to give a good harvest next year.

Usually the garden is watered in October-November (depending on the region). Therefore, it is best to focus on fallen leaves and air temperature: it should be within 2-3 ° C.

Ways to Water Trees in the Fall

There are many ways to water your garden crops: bucket, hose, sprinkler or drip irrigation.

Buckets and hoses

When watering from a bucket, it is more convenient to count the amount of water that you put under the tree. But if the plant is large and requires abundant watering, and also if you have a large garden, you can’t run into each tree with buckets. Therefore, it is much easier to put a hose under the crop. And if you dig irrigation canals, you can even organize irrigation in such a way that water flows to several trees at once.

How to calculate the amount of water when watering with a hose? You need to put the hose in a 10-liter bucket and note how long it takes to fill with water. Knowing this, you can calculate the amount of time during which you need to water each specific tree.

These irrigation methods are only suitable for flat areas where water will not run down the slope from the trees.

Sprinkler irrigation

If the home garden has a slope, it is better to irrigate by sprinkling. So moisture will be absorbed into the soil more evenly. But take note that sprinkling increases the humidity around the trees, which is not always good, as it can lead to the development of various diseases.

Drip irrigation

This method is suitable for any area and is considered the best. In order not to buy a special irrigation system, you can water the trees in this way using hoses pierced in different places. They need to be connected to the water supply or connected to the main hose and laid in a ring along the edge of the trunk circle.

The width of the moistened area under the tree should be equal to the diameter of the crown.


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