• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

WWYD- Keeping fruit trees watered

 
Amanda Wheaton
Posts: 27
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I already know that you are going to tell me to mulch mulch mulch lol... But I cannot just mulch because I need to get the moisture down there in the first place. So I think i need more than just mulching. Okay here is my situation. Its Michigan.. its sand.. When I bought my property it was sand and beach grass with a couple of cottonwood and red pines.



OKay imagine with me... say this is your land and these are your newly planted fruit trees. (By the way, i have been working at top soil for about 8 yrs so im getting there, but i just have more work to do but you can see i at least have grass now lol) Anyways- You can run a hose and the water disappears within seconds of hitting the sand. I have a little organic material work done here as the original is orange sand. In this picture I had been working on things a little. I had just transplanted some trees that had been planted 2 years earlier but way too close. They were not getting proper growth so I spread them apart and I plan on hitting them hard with both water and fertilizer this upcoming year. It is a good 20ish feet in between trees. If these were your trees with same sandy ground, what would you do to maximize their moisture retention so that you didn't spend every 3rd day out there in the middle of summer with 5 gallon buckets in your hands?
 
Linda Ford
Posts: 32
Location: Southwestern New Mexico
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am about to plant a bunch of trees here in the high desert so I'm interested in what you get for answers.
What I have gathered so far is that the mulch IS what holds the moisture so that would still be the first answer. Dress each "leaf line" with compost and then cover with a deep mulch.

Second, plant comfry and lots of it along with other guild plants to compete away the grass (high respiration rate?) so you are growing your mulch and nitrogen fixers with all that water you are putting on the surface. You said you know that you need more organic material in your sand but it is about how it gets there. There seem to be a number of plants that will do the accumulating better than commercial fertilizer whose salts can be hard on growing systems. Or is your fertilizer plan really high test compost?

I've also read about mushrooms (fungus) and the microbes that make dirt into soil. Perhaps someone here knows how to incorporate seeded logs into this system or another source. I refer you to the Hugelcultur-burms I mention below as a good place to grow beneficial microbes.

Then there is the technique of raising the ground level between the trees into Hugel-burms with their own sponge base. This seems like a good and easy plan to keep the water in your sand.

Additionally I want to try a deep watering system - a 6" (?) pvc perforated pipe set with one end under the roots of each tree so I can pour several gallons of water into the top of the pipe. The logic is that the top several inches of soil/sand is actually evaporating much of the surface water. They surely need deep long run slow watering less than daily or the roots will stay shallow. The item I was reading suggested this trick reduced the needed water by several thousand gallons. I wouldn't normally think of trying this with trees already planted but if the soil was recently disturbed anyway perhaps it wouldn't be too stressful to auger a hole for the pipe.

One word of caution, commercial straw and other mulch products may have already been treated with persistent weed and insect killers. That will make your trying to grow useful plants a bit harder. We all make do with what we have but just wanted to mention it.

Please post your comments and choices too.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2351
77
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Do you have a cat?

Clay cat litter is an excellent amendment to sandy soils. If you rake it in (after the cat is done with it) around the base of the fruit trees, the clay will head down into the root zone and start filling up big pores, and making them smaller pores. It may percolate down 6", 12", 27", where ever the downward flow rate of the water carrying it slows down to the point that it can start to spread out. At that point, each addition of clay starts making a pan under the tree that will trap and hold water and make it available to the roots of the tree.

The nitrogen that the cat has added to the litter also helps out the tree a little.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3306
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
5 gallon bucket with a 1/8 inch hole drill in the side just above the bottom. That will dribble out slowly so the trees can take it up. Slow enough the tree can trap some of it. Set it on the north side of the tree with the hole sort of pointed toward the tree, but don't let it piss on the trunk--point it to the side slightly. LOTS OF MULCH to catch said water and slow it down more.

Buckets are $3 new, as cheap as free if you find a bakery that still gives them away. They are the solution if you can't run drip irrigation. Buy/scrounge one for every tree.

If you can run low pressure drip, DO IT. It is so easy and can be set up to run all day and still only deliver a few gallons per tree. Easily slow enough for the tree to use. WITH MULCH Stupid simple and you can buy the parts at any big box store. Pay for themselves in the water they save.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
88
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have very sandy soil. I added a fair amount of compost at planting, but that vanishes immediately in sand as you know!
I buried large pieces of wood (like a trunk 'ring' a couple of foot across) under the planting hole as a kind of modified hugelkultur.
PLant comfrey around the tree.
Mulchmulchmulch
I use deep chipped tree mulch, topping it up often.
Minimal organic matter definitely speeds up drying out, but mulch will help hold water, and creates really water-retentive organic matter as it breaks down.
I've also heard John's cat litter idea works well.
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 1094
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
99
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Amanda Wheaton wrote:say this is your land and these are your newly planted fruit trees.
...
If these were your trees with same sandy ground, what would you do to maximize their moisture retention so that you didn't spend every 3rd day out there in the middle of summer with 5 gallon buckets in your hands?


I think with newly planted trees there is really no way around watering them regularly the first season until they grow enough of a root system. If you're dead set against going out to them every coupla days, then you need to set up some kind of automated irrigation system. If that's too expensive or difficult, resign yourself to personally meeting your new trees every coupla days the first year to water them and help them get settled. Maybe next year if you have mulched nicely and, as you say, have improved the soil for 8 years, you can let them fend for themselves a bit more.
 
Amanda Wheaton
Posts: 27
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I had no idea that kitty litter would be valuable but yes I have a kitty and I will try that..and mulching. Most of my trees were planted this year and within the last 2 years so still needing to water and water frequently. Specially since I tore the cherries apart and replanted them. I guess what i will do is mulch mulch mulch (and i knew i would have to lol) and just keep watering them via buckets heavily for this year and maybe next. By then I think they should be established enough with the mulch that I can back off and by then perhaps there will be enough rain to keep them well fed. My fertilizer has been cow manure. Since it leaches away so fast I can use it fresh and it wouldn't burn but then i also wasn't using as MUCH as i am apparently supposed to. I have two things to fix soon as the snow is gone... more mulch and heavier fertilizer (which by now is composted)
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 1094
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
99
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Newly transplanted trees don't want large amounts of "fertilizer" (ie nitrogen) in the first year or two. It stressed them out by forcing them to produce lots of leaves when they don't yet have strong roots. What they, and most plants, appreciate is plenty of humus (well rotted compost and leaf mold) to help hold and modulate water and nutrients. Animal dung is high in nitrogen, so don't give a lot this year -- give lots of mulch to shade the soil to conserve moisture and harbor worms etc, and maybe next year add some manure, as well as more mulch.

When you said you "couldn't mulch because you need to get the moisture down in there" it doesn't make much sense to me. If you were using a sprinkler to deliver water, that would be a problem. You shouldn't use a sprinkler to water your young trees: you should pour water from a bucket or a hose into a saucer-shaped depression with a soil rim, that you make around each new tree. The water will go under the mulch and make it float while the water soaks down, moistening the bottom layer of mulch, which is a good thing. Anyway, I don't think you're using a sprinkler since you mention the hardship of lugging buckets.
 
Amanda Wheaton
Posts: 27
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Rebecca Norman wrote:Newly transplanted trees don't want large amounts of "fertilizer" (ie nitrogen) in the first year or two. It stressed them out by forcing them to produce lots of leaves when they don't yet have strong roots. What they, and most plants, appreciate is plenty of humus (well rotted compost and leaf mold) to help hold and modulate water and nutrients. Animal dung is high in nitrogen, so don't give a lot this year -- give lots of mulch to shade the soil to conserve moisture and harbor worms etc, and maybe next year add some manure, as well as more mulch.

When you said you "couldn't mulch because you need to get the moisture down in there" it doesn't make much sense to me. If you were using a sprinkler to deliver water, that would be a problem. You shouldn't use a sprinkler to water your young trees: you should pour water from a bucket or a hose into a saucer-shaped depression with a soil rim, that you make around each new tree. The water will go under the mulch and make it float while the water soaks down, moistening the bottom layer of mulch, which is a good thing. Anyway, I don't think you're using a sprinkler since you mention the hardship of lugging buckets.


I mulched last year with some partially composted wood chips. All it seemed to accomplish was making a hard crust and the water would run off. I would have to dig holes and dump the water in the little holes. I kept making little bowls using soil or chips but I have chickens... and well, i swear every time i went to water my ledge was gone :/
 
Amanda Wheaton
Posts: 27
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I saw a video yesterday of a guy that had done a forest garden type thing with his orchard.. I think i might try that... then just run a soaker hose or pvc type drip irrigation through there. IF I am going to water the trees, might as well have some fruit bushes in between the trees and probably a cucumber plant at the base of each one too... It would help nitrogen and in the fall, just cutting down the plants to create more mulch
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 1094
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
99
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes, if it's not too far or too high, and if you can afford the hoses, you might want to put some hoses there this year. Then when these young trees seem established, you can move the hoses to next year's new plantings.

Even without soaker hoses or drip lines, you could use a regular hose end instead of lugging buckets. The convenience might allow you to water more deeply and less frequently, which encourages the roots to grow deeper and more resilient to future droughts. One of the drawbacks of lugging buckets is that it encourages you to water less each time, which encourages roots to grow near the surface, making them more vulnerable to gaps in watering or precipitation.
 
Johnny Niamert
Posts: 268
Location: Colo
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not sure of your local climate, but if your soil dries very quickly and you don't get a lot of winter precipitation, you may consider winter watering.

Every local nursery I've purchased from has emphasized how important winter watering is when establishing, around here at least.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
187
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you're planning to do some hugelkultur, the beds could be placed near the trees. These could be watered deeply and less often. Trees will benifit from any water that leaks through the bed and from wind blockage and mulch.

Most trees don't like their roots burried, so stay back to near the drip line. Sandy soil is more forgiving since roots get plenty of air.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1424
Location: Central New Jersey
40
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ann, one thing that you might want to add into consideration is cover cropping. The grass that is coming in along with your fruit trees is not the best friend you could have out there. Grass and trees want different kinds of soil and they really are not compatible with one another.

You do want that soil covered, not just with mulch but with living plants as well. They will contribute to the overall health of your soil and further reduce evaporation from the soil - their shade helps lower the ground temperature. And, at appropriate stages in the cover crops growth cycle, you can chop and drop, using the material as an additional layer of your mulch.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!