Irrigating Fruit Trees With Drip Irrigation

Irrigating Fruit Trees With Drip Irrigation

Dec 10th 2023

Fruit trees grow well when irrigated enough regularly. Drought stress can reduce fruit size and inhibit growth, particularly in young trees. Applying water at sufficient intervals to prevent major plant stress is one of the best irrigation practices in California. This will ensure better plant growth, yield, and fruit size.

Drip irrigation is the best method to irrigate fruit trees as it helps maximize their growth and fruit development. This system applies water directly to the root zone of the tree, which results in precise watering and reduced water wastage. It's the most economical and efficient way to water fruit trees because it only waters the base of plants.

In this article, we'll explain why you should use a drip system to irrigate your fruit trees and how to set up drip on your trees successfully.

Why Use a Drip Irrigation System to Irrigate Fruit Trees?

Water is a precious resource, and the drip irrigation system offers an eco-friendly and cost-effective solution to irrigate fruit trees efficiently. A drip irrigation system consists of pipes, drippers/emitters, and tubes that deliver water directly to plants' roots, which saves water and nutrients and boosts plant health. With drip irrigation, you don't lose water to evaporation. Therefore, it is proven to be 90% more efficient than sprinkler and surface irrigation.

In addition to water conservation, the drip system lowers the risk of plant diseases that occur in wet conditions. You can run the drip system at any time because the wind and weather don't affect it like with sprinklers. Also, it's easier to calculate the amount of water you're giving each tree. If you're wondering how much water you need to give your fruit trees or how many emitters to use in the system, read on to find answers to these important questions.

What Type of Drip Irrigation Works Best for Fruit Trees?

Drip irrigation comes in multiple forms: emitter systems, soaker hoses, misting systems, and drip lines. The emitter system is the most recommended drip type for fruit trees. Drip emitters are ideal for irrigating individual fruit trees as they slowly drip water to the base. They can be punched into the mainline or inserted into the tubing.

A drip line with evenly installed emitters works well for rows of trees. 1⁄2 emitter tubing can be used to form rings around fruit trees, which is the best orchard irrigation option. Use the mainline to supply water to the orchard and at each tree add a ring or a spiral of ½” emitter tubing. However, large yards or large irrigation systems for fruit tree orchards may need PVC pipes to supply water to trees.

Number of Emitters to Use and Ideal Flow Range

Fruit tree roots usually reach the drip line of the canopy and a little bit beyond. According to the University of California RIC, drip irrigation for immature fruit trees that have a canopy diameter of less than 15 feet requires at least one emitter for every 2.5 feet of canopy. Moreover, larger trees may require six emitters under the canopy. You can extend irrigation beyond the drip line if you have extra drip tubing. Watering promotes deep root development in the ground further than the drip line.

For smaller fruit trees, single or two drip emitters are enough. However, if you plant a new tree near established plants, you should give three or more emitters for root establishment. Furthermore, a flow rate of 1 to 2 gallons per hour is suitable for fruit trees. Here is a simple math sample: if the tree has six emitters that each supply one gallon per hour, you know you are giving the tree six gallons every hour when you run the system.

Check out this irrigation guide for more information on irrigation requirements for fruit trees.

Installing Drip System Tips for Trees on Slopes

Fruit orchards often come with various slopes that can be challenging when setting up an irrigation system. When installing a drip system on slopes, you should consider the gravitational pull of water and choose the right type of drippers. Drippers or emitters come in two types. There are basic emitters, and there are emitters called Pressure Compensating emitters that are specifically designed for uneven terrain or long rows.

Pressure Compensating Emitters

PC emitters are the best choice to irrigate fruit trees if your yard has slopes. These emitters deliver precise amounts of water with consistent flow even if pressure changes due to elevation differences.

If you use basic non-pressure compensating emitters on a slope, the trees higher on the hill will receive less water even while the system is running, and trees lower on a hill will continue receiving water after the system is turned off, which will lead to overwatering.

So, if your fruit trees are on slopes, use PC emitters or use extra non- pressure compensating emitters on those trees that are high on the hill and fewer drip emitters on lower elevation trees.

How to design a ring around a Fruit tree

1/2 emitter tubing can be used to form a ring around a fruit tree. This flexible and strong tubing has pre-installed emitters evenly spaced to deliver the right amount of water directly to the soil.

The diameter of the ring should cover the entire root zone of the tree beyond the tree's canopy. As the tree grows, adjust the ring placement to maintain balance. Mulch the area around the tree to retain moisture and boost the health of the tree.

Maintaining Your Drip System

Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure the effectiveness of the drip irrigation system. Check emitters regularly for clogs or damage, clear debris from filters, and replace broken components. It can be difficult to find whether your soil receives the right amount of moisture through drip irrigation because you won't be able to see the water entering the soil.

So, it would be best to use a soil moisture tester to measure soil moisture accurately. Any signs of drought can be an indication of a clog or broken hose. It is best to cover the hoses with mulch around fruit trees to avoid any issues, especially when harvesting. Maintaining your irrigation system not only keeps your fruit trees healthy but also prevents water wastage.

The Bottom Line

Drip irrigation is the most efficient and economical way to irrigate fruit trees. By delivering water directly to the roots of trees in a controlled manner via emitters, this irrigation method saves water, energy, and nutrients while boosting the tree's health and yield. You can find high-quality drip irrigation components and complete drip irrigation kits at DripWorks.

Explore our vast selection of irrigation supplies here and get the ones that fit your orchard irrigation needs.