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Wicking Irrigation for Tree Establishment

 
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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I've always like the Waterboxx concept, but the cost is prohibitive for a lot of people. I use wicking beds in the dry season, and I know how well they work.

This article has some good info for building a type of open-source Waterboxx: http://agroforestry.net/overstory/overstory249.html

Using Nylon rope and some plastic (or clay) jugs, you can achieve very high survival rates for seedlings in drought prone areas.

The first step is to select appropriate species. Then, get small seedlings established in a nursery and transplant them to the site with the watering system. In this example, they were able to establish mesquite seedlings with 8 l (2 gal) of water a month.

I typically use drip irrigation with trees, and my survival rates are not impressive at all. Typically, I give each seedling about 150-200 gallons a year to get them established. With this wicking system, I could reduce that amount considerably, which means more trees for the same water.
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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I also think deep pipe irrigation is very efficient, too. I guess if you are planting your trees in an area where you could install lines to each one, deep pipe would be good:
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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I've installed some deep pipe for some of the trees I have (apricot, plum, cherry, peach, grape) just to see how it works. I have high hopes, and the drip irrigation just wasn't performing well.
 
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With the rocky soil on my lot up on Gate 2 in Terlingua I don't think this would work but I wish it would. I was thinking of daming up the upper part of a shallow wash filling it with dirt and trying this..
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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O O wrote:With the rocky soil on my lot up on Gate 2 in Terlingua I don't think this would work but I wish it would. I was thinking of daming up the upper part of a shallow wash filling it with dirt and trying this..


I used to live on the Ranch, mile marker 6 on the main Ranch road.

Yeah, rocky soils are a pain, but where you do have soil, you should try it.
 
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I like that deep pipe system also.

I get rather irked when I see people using a drip hose to water trees. A deep watering (especially when establishing trees) trains the roots to search deep for water, thus enhancing its drought tolerance. Frequent, shallow watering makes the tree dependent on surface water.

 
Abe Connally
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John Polk wrote:I like that deep pipe system also.

I get rather irked when I see people using a drip hose to water trees. A deep watering (especially when establishing trees) trains the roots to search deep for water, thus enhancing its drought tolerance. Frequent, shallow watering makes the tree dependent on surface water.


yeah, but just about all the literature and information recommends drip systems for trees. That's why they are used so much.

I think they can work, but in my climate, they don't do well. We took the strategy of weekly waterings, they were effectively deep waterings, but in our clay, that meant a lot of water per tree to penetrate deep down.

I'm hoping these pipes will do better, and it should be easy enough to convert our system to use them.

For trees that are further out of reach of a drip line, I will be testing out the wicking system.
 
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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gotta bury the drip line at least a foot down.

That way you aren't watering weeds either.
Don't bother with emitters, just drill tiny holes in the pipe.
Run some vinegar thru once a winter to dissolve deposits.

If you do a vertical pipe, put a cap on it.

If you could fill it with biochar, would be even better...

I have been burying in rock cisterns, and they let too much water evaporate, had to cover the rock with dirt.
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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Morgan Morrigan wrote:If you do a vertical pipe, put a cap on it.


Why? Don't we want the water going into the soil below the tree?

Morgan Morrigan wrote:If you could fill it with biochar, would be even better...

I have been burying in rock cisterns, and they let too much water evaporate, had to cover the rock with dirt.


I back fill with biochar and compost, but I wouldn't waste space in the pipe for that. You want as much space for water as possible.
 
pollinator
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Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Strange thought...if you used a larger style of rope and do a wicking system with a 1 1/2 to 2 inch rope that will degrade over time (like the ropes that people use in nautical landscaping), couldn't you gain the benefit of wicking while the trees get established and then, over time the ropes would biodegrade and add to the soil structure?
 
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the article about wicking irrigation mentioned in the first post: it seems like their conclusion :

The 11 mm (7/16”) detergent washed solid braid nylon exhibited the best capillary rise, reaching 25 cm in 100 minutes and 55 cm in 20 hours.


wondering if anyone has tried this and how they figured out how to attacht he wick to the container. Looking for a simple way to do this.
 
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John Polk wrote:Frequent, shallow watering makes the tree dependent on surface water.



Yes but only if the tree is being given more than enough water.
If you surface water the shallow roots, enough to keep the tree healthy, but not at the rate to support the tree's maximum growth then the tree will send down deeper roots to search for more water
 
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Location: Central Wyoming -zone 4
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If I'm understanding this right the recommendation of this thread is to plant the trees first in a wicking bed then to ranspla the trees after they've developed roots for searching deep correct?
I too love the groasis waterboxx concept but it is coat prohibitive for me so my solution is to save my large amount of milk cartons I drink through, which are a half gallon a piece and in the spring I will attach a wick through the lid fill them with fresh water and place them upside down next to my veggies to hopefully copy the groasis on a smaller scale, if it works well with veggies then I will begin using them for trees as well though I had planned to use 8 for a tree rather than one to match the 4 gallon supply of the groasis, if it works as I hope I'll be sure to share
 
pollinator
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Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Devon, I think you misread it. I believe the wicking bed was only mentioned to highlight the superior efficiency of a wick system for watering. Using a wick for watering helps the tree to establish a deep tap root which helps with drought resistance as well as structural stability. Digging the tree up after it has established a deep root system would be counterproductive.

Using a non-biodegradable wick allows the wick to be used for efficient supplemental watering, when needed.

Modifying the area around the tree into a microcatchment that guides surface water to deep pipes and/or a reservoir that supplies a wick or wicks, can maximize annual precipitation.
 
Devon Olsen
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Location: Central Wyoming -zone 4
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I was worried that i had andrew, i didnt think that the recommendation would be to transplant the tree as i understood that top be counterproductive to taproot formation

now, i am confused as to the benefit of the non-biodegradable wick other than it would likely maintian close to the same flow rate for months on end whereas i imagine a biodegradable wick would quicken the infiltration rate over time

the question is, at what point is the difference substantial enough to ju stify using non biodegradable material if one is trying to steer clear of that?
immediately?
one month in?
three months in?
six?
would a bidodegradable wick last a full season?

perhaps these are answers i will have to wiat to answer myself...
 
garden master
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Abe Connally wrote:

Morgan Morrigan wrote:If you do a vertical pipe, put a cap on it.


Why? Don't we want the water going into the soil below the tree?



Wasn't that a cap on the top of the pipe/ bottle? Perhaps to avoid drying out of the soil at the bottom?
 
pollinator
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Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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I just ran across this thread and realized one of the two main sorts of methods discussed is the "deep pipe".

Abe Connally wrote:I also think deep pipe irrigation is very efficient, too.  I guess if you are planting your trees in an area where you could install lines to each one, deep pipe would be good


I'm now using this method myself after some years of frustration keeping some young trees from dying of thirst in mid summer.  We have mostly a sandy soil here, sometimes a sand/silt mineral-soil mixture.  In some areas it's pretty much like beach sand below a couple inches of organic-containing topsoil.  Having seen a significant improvement in our greenhouse by using perforated pipes (i.d. 2") in the raised beds to supplement daily surface watering, I decided to try the same general idea on eastern and southern slopes outdoors where we'd had disappointments with trees.  I started with some young broadleaf trees, and then am using it with some young conifers.

For the trees, I cut 17-inch lengths of 3"-i.d. plastic pipe and perforated it with 1/2" holes.  Top of each pipe is an inch or a bit more above grade, so water delivery is deep.  Part of our issue isn't simply the sandy soil, it's that our gravity-feed water system can be unreliable in July & August.  We've intended to continue doing our best with surface watering of the trees as well as delivering directed water through each of the pipes.  There's been a noticeable improvement.
 
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