Flood irrigation in Mesa

lgladyshMarch 7, 2013

Last year I moved to a house with flood irrigation. The property is burmed deeply and can hold water up to 12 inches deep. I planted several citrus last year but they struggled with leaf drop and general lack of growth. There is heavy, clay soil. I'm concerned because the water stands on the surface for a couple of days and I may be drowning the trees (grass loves it though). My question...how long should I let the water stand?

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Wow, that is bad. You should have your soil analyzed.

It may be clay, it may be compression, it may be caliche or a combination. Did the prior owner not take irrigation?---usually the soil is superb. Was there a lot of construction?

48 hours to drain is not good. Marginally acceptable and likely rotting your citrus roots. Hopefully you are keeping the grass at least 4 feet away from the trees as they will compete and slow development of the trees a lot.

Long term solution is a deep layer of wood chips on the entire property. At least 4" deep. With flood irrigation it can be much deeper if desired. Will have to replace every 6-12 months as it decomposes. It will keep the dirt from being compressed and add organics and humus as it decomposes. It will also build microorganisms in the soil as well as thermostabilize it. While you would see some results in a few months it will take at least a year to probably get better soil.

Soil analysis will give you a strategy to enlist.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 11:23PM
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Fascist , thanks for the response. I will definitely start with a soil analysis. I don't think 4 inches of wood chips is an option because of kids playing in the grass area. My initial plan was to aerate then auger a bunch of 3 inch holes a couple of feet deep. Filling the holes with mulch. Long tedious process, but I will be here for awhile...

As for previous owners, my understanding is this property was not irrigated for over 5 years before we moved in. When we started it up the weeds went crazy but not so bad anymore.

Thanks again

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 10:43AM
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We get flood irrigation (in Mesa) and occasionally have standing water. It usually occurs if: a) the head pressure is way up, b) the ditch was recently cleaned, c) the neighbor forgets to open his gate on time, or d) we just had a heavy rain and the irrigation has nowhere to go.

We had our property laser-leveled a few years ago. That significantly improved yard appearance and really improved the tree health (sometimes the irrigation didn't make it all the way to where the trees are located).

If you consistently have standing water after irrigating you might want to adjust your timing. If you live in an older part of the city you might consider re-leveling the yard if it hasn't been done in a while.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 11:46AM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

I'm in Phoenix and have irrigation. I think the suggestion to reduce the time you take water is a good one. How big is your lot and what amount of time do you currently take water?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:04PM
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I'm in Gilbert and also have flood irrigation. Water usually covers to about 4 inches - a little deeper in some parts of the front yard. We've had to adjust the run time when ordering water and don't take the full alloted amount. In our clay soils, 4 inches of water should moisten the soil to about 2 - 3 feet deep.

Water in the front and back soaks in within 6 - 8 hours but in the pasture, where horse hooves have compacted the soil, it takes a couple of days. We have it tilled every few years to improve the drainage. The two huge china berry trees in the pasture don't seem to mind the standing water.

New trees will need deep, infrequent supplemental water in between the regular irrigation cycle to get them established.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 2:15PM
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More good advice...thank you.

We currently water about 1/2 to a 1/3 of an acre. Our run time is 1 hour 15 minutes. We also just started pumping to the front yard but the area is sloped so the water runs off easily. We have plans to bring in someone to do some dirt work in the front so we can hold more water. It may be a good idea to level the back at the same time.

We are definitely going to cut back on the water we take. We also aerated and I used a bulb auger (about 2 feet long) around each of our trees. We don't get water for a couple of weeks, we'll see how it goes.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 9:01PM
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Although i don't usually agree with fascists. i agree with the above "Fascist." You have to look at the soil as a living thing. It needs the mulch. You will attract good microorganisms with the mulch. Earthworms will just appear and yes it will take a year or so, but your soil will be much more healthy and then you can plant a lot of things.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 2:37PM
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