Ideal irrigation for small orchard

dovechaserFebruary 25, 2014

I've got about 18 fruit trees (stone, citrus, fig, and apple). We just moved to this property- so each season we learn more about what we have. The majority of the trees are in one long line- maybe 100 feet long?? They run one entire edge of the property. Currently they have no irrigation at all except hand watering and I don't have a hose long enough, or enough hours in the day.

I've set up drip irrigation in a vegetable garden previously- would something like this work for trees? Or are sprinklers preferred? We have a well and will be installing timers so this runs at night when we have little/no other water use. If you could design a system from scratch, what would you use?

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Drip will work but it does depend on your soil and climate. Drip works better on soils that have enough silt and clay that the water spreads out some and doesn't go straight down. Even in sand drip will work but it takes a lot of emitters spread out.

I like the half inch tubing with built in emitters from a place like drip works. Those emitters work much better and much longer than the plug in type. I'd think you'd need a minimum of one line running down and back to cover both sides. If they're big trees that probably isn't enough.

Mine have been under weed barrier with no issues for 3-4 yrs, no plugs, few leaks. But on a big system leaks could become and issue.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 6:24PM
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Thanks fruitnut. We definitely have clay soils here. I buried my drip under mulch in my garden previously. Here it is mostly lawn could I bury it in the dirt?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 8:33PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I won't bury in dirt. It would be better to have a weed free, mulched strip along the tree row. You could pile mulch over the drip tubing. Or have a mulched circle around each tree and put the drip in that circle.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 9:24PM
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A agree with Fruitnut, drip systems are generally really good for home orchards.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 10:38PM
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It is fortunate that drip lines are sold in 100 ft rolls, no cutting needed. Yes, ideally I would bury the line, but with all the roots, I would just cover with mulch.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 10:53PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

We have a different situation because our trees are scattered all over a rocky hillisde, but we have 12 drip stations, and everything does well on drip. 1 acre is completely covered, but 1/2 acre is just native growth and has no irrigation.

Our system is probably 25 years old, and we moved in 8 months ago. It was really hard to figure out which drip went with which station, but with some little flags, it got sorted out. My husband is constantly fixing leaks, but it would be much harder to hand water.

One little caution. Do not get a cheap battery one. We had that in our vineyard, and a few times the thing quit and we didn't know till the grapes showed stress. The one they have in this house is electrical and very dependable. It does have battery back up, but not so sure we remember to check those batteries.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 8:59AM
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For me, the ideal irrigation method for a small orchard is hand watering. It's the only way to know that I'm not over or under watering. I've never felt completely comfortable nor had much luck with drip hoses, drip lines, timers and other automatic watering systems. Watering by hand also forces me to pay attention to what's going on with my trees.

That said, my solution would be to move a water supply line closer to where the trees are if I can't make a hose come close enough. 100' is not too bad if the water supply is close by. A hose reel is a good add on.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 10:31AM
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I plan on adding some drip coverage to my orchard this spring. My plan is to use a 1/2" header line and T off it at each tree with a spiral of emitter line. Part of the reason I am doing it is it will allow me to vary the amount of water each tree gets by adjusting the length of spiral. This is important because my orchard is of mixed ages, varying from just planted whips to 10 yr old trees. It should also be possible to extend the spiral lengths as trees grow.

I will let you know how it works in a year...

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 9:35PM
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