How much should I water my fruit trees?

filixJune 20, 2011

My peach, apple , and pear trees are 4 years old. They are nice and healthy looking. Its been kind of dry. If you dig down 4 feet on my land you will find water. I dont know if that makes a difference. Thanks. filix.

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

In a generally mild climate like Maine and with a water table at four feet I won't water at all after the first year. You'll probably get best fruit eating quality with a moderately dry summer, warm temperatures, lots of sun, and no irrigation.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 10:15PM
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alan haigh

I agree with fruitnut up to a point. However if you are still sizing up the trees they may grow faster with some irrigation during dry patches. The general rule is 1" precip a week which is not that accurate as evaporation rates vary greatly depending on temps and wind.

4-year trees can probably use about 25 gallons each when soil is dry.

If they've already got roots down where there's water the peach trees will keep growing vigorously throughout the season without any additional water- that will be your clue that irrigation will not be helpful. As fruitnut, the brix expert, is well aware- too much water and fruit will have too little sugar.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 5:34AM
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Once again, thankyou very much for the help. Filix.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 7:21AM
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justjohn(8 AR/LA Stateline)

Harvestman, Fruitnut, my trees are in second leaf from the time I planted them bareroot. It's been really dry and 100 plus for about 3 weeks. I've been giving them a good soaking once a week. Am I doing this right? Also, can I put immunox on a pear tree that has a fungul (blackening leaves) problem? The label says nothing about pears. I appreciate you two and all the rest of the pros on this forum very much, ya'll have been mucho help.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 9:13AM
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blackrag(6A East PA)

I am no expert, however, 4 years ago I planted 20 trees and had the same concerns. As soon as the hot weather hit, I started watering using commercial tree watering bags and filled them once a week. I believe I killed them all by OVERwatering in my heavy soil. It was devastating and had to start all over. I started thinking how everywhere else on my properties, good and bad things grow very well without my constant attention.... In my case, if no rain, I might plan on watering once a month or every 3 weeks. These babies need to do a little work too and spread their roots. There are plenty of old time orchards that I'll bet never watered-EVER. It has been suggested here that 5 gallons = 1" of rainfall. Also tipped here was drilling a couple 3/16" holes in the bottom of a 5 gal bucket and setting it next to the tree.

It is dry here at the moment but I am trying to learn how to watch the trees and their growth or condition instead of just doing things out of panic because of what I read from day to day. All our soils and pressures are different from site to site. For what it's worth, I think that like others here, I have come to the conclusion, that if I want fruit, I'm going to have to learn how to watch the trees regularly and educate myself. I thought I had a the ultimate "green thumb" until I planted fruit trees. I needed to face the fact that I had to go back to the 1st grade and the beginning of the learning curve.

I'm beginning to ramble. Good Luck, Chad

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 9:59AM
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blackrag(6A East PA)

I need to clarify, that I believe the 5 gallon=1" rainfall figure was suggested for a young tree. Obviously, as Harvestman states, an older tree = more water need.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 10:02AM
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justjohn(8 AR/LA Stateline)

Chad, sorry about your 20 trees. I do worry a bit about mine, 60 and assorted grapes, blackberries, and muscadines. Just took a walk out there and everything is looking good except for some recent deer damage. I don't know why I took on this orchard thing, with plans to add more this Fall. Guess I'm a little fruitnutty. Thanks to you and all the rest here, maybe I can learn enough to keep this little hobby going and growing. I'll take heed with your advice and watch closely before I jump in and ruin it. Thanks...and please, ramble on!!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 11:14AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I water first-year trees if the top 2" or so of soil is completely dry (as in rock hard and/or dusty). I water older trees if I hear about a drought on the local news. One exception is if a 2-3 year tree is having problems, then it will get a soaking in a rainless spell. Of course this approach won't work in drier climates where watering is required, but it should work in most of the eastern half of the US. If it is completely dry I don't think you can ever go wrong with a once a week watering right around the trees, given the dry soil around the tree it will leach out quickly enough that the tree will not be overly wet. I used to water more often in dry spells but in watching the trees I never see water stress so I pretty much leave them alone. I think my main stands of trees have not been watered in five years. Grapes and berries are a different matter entirely.

I have a hazelnut that I ordered from Raintree this spring and it came with one teensy weensy feeder root and that was it. I have watered it 3-4 times already since we had a long dry spell in early June. It is finally starting to leaf out, I think it may set a record as my latest ever (assuming it makes it).


    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 11:21AM
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alan haigh

I believe in putting your hands in the soil to determine when watering is needed although I've nothing against moisture meters. It does amaze me that people will water without putting their hands into the earth to see if it's dry, moist or soppy.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 5:25PM
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justjohn(8 AR/LA Stateline)

Hi Scott, I feel better about my once a week watering. But, I did kill a few cherry trees by over watering last year. It's been awful dry and hot down here, I hope you have better weather. Thanks.

Thanks Harvestman, I do check the earth for moisture before watering. I insert a finger as far down as possible. Here lately, I can't get down but just a smidgen cause it's bone dry and hard as a rock at least 2-3 inches.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 6:36PM
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