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constant slow drip irrigation in desert climate, beneficial or harmful to fruit trees?

 
sonny gonza
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I have under a period of 6 months been watering my newly planted fruit trees with a drip irrigation system, the system is set up to run constantly (24/7) with water slowly emitting at the rate of about 1 drop every 5 seconds from each emitter. each tree has 2 emitters installed (a picture to explain this will be attached). it is set to run constantly because I can only visit the farm once every two weeks. Lately I have been asking myself whether this constant slow watering is actually beneficial or harmful longterm. Since I'm new to gardening and permaculture I have no clue if the growth rate of my trees is optimal or not. the leaves are green and fine, no sign of over/under watering. should I continue running the system as is or would you guys advice otherwise? I appreciate any help. thanks
drippirri.png
[Thumbnail for drippirri.png]
 
Kyrt Ryder
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In all likelihood the waterflow isn't harming anything [so long as the rootzone remains aerobic.]

Where the harm comes is the drug addiction of sorts your fruit trees are on. If anything goes wrong with the waterflow for even a few days they're likely screwed.

Using an Infiltration Basin type setup [see Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster for awesome details] and shifting to flood type irrigation [and weaning those irrigation events back as far as you can, perhaps to once a month or so?] while building up soil organic matter and living mulch to shade the soil might be your best option.

DISCLAIMER: This is all armchair theory. I get extended drought but a great deal of overall rainfall and cool summer temps, I am completely void of actual desert experience.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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For newly planted trees, I'd prefer constant water to letting them dry out. Most of the roots were torn off, and/or comfined to a small space. If I can keep a tree alive for the first few years, by then the roots are well enough established that I can start weaning them off the water...
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Joseph raises a fair point. When they're first started it's not a bad idea to go with the constant flow as a means of getting the trees established. [Not my method, but I'm not desert and Joseph is somewhat. And he does this for a living, so I imagine he knows his shit.]
 
sonny gonza
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It's common knowledge that roots need oxygen to breath, when you overwater a tree its roots drown and are not able to breath due to the water clogging air pockets underground. But what happens if you only have some of the ground area around the tree constantly moist and and keep some area around it not moist. would the roots still drown or would lets say 50% of the roots be moist while the other 50% be in dry ground and be able to breath as normal (picture attached to clarify)
irri.png
[Thumbnail for irri.png]
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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One drop per 5 seconds equals 30 ounces per day. I can't imagine that being the slightest bit of a problem for a fruit tree growing in a desert climate.
 
Marco Banks
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Frequent shallow watering in a small space will not encourage the roots to grow deeply and broadly.

If your drippers are in one spot and are not moved regularly, the tree will send roots to that area but will not spread out to the larger space around the tree. It would be much better to build a wide basin around your tree, saturate it with a couple of inches of water, and then not water for a couple of days afterward. This mimics nature -- big rain storms, followed by days or weeks of dryness.

If you wait until your tree shows signs of wilting, and then give a good, long, deep drink, you will teach it to go deep in search of water. This will require you to be more attentive to your trees, but in the long term, will allow you to be less attentive.

Mark Shepard advocates STUN in his tree management philosophy: sheer total utter neglect. Having a constant drip going, day and night, 24/7, it's the exact opposite of STUN. It's umbilical cord gardening, creating welfare trees.
 
sonny gonza
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Marco Banks wrote:Frequent shallow watering in a small space will not encourage the roots to grow deeply and broadly.

If your drippers are in one spot and are not moved regularly, the tree will send roots to that area but will not spread out to the larger space around the tree. It would be much better to build a wide basin around your tree, saturate it with a couple of inches of water, and then not water for a couple of days afterward. This mimics nature -- big rain storms, followed by days or weeks of dryness.

If you wait until your tree shows signs of wilting, and then give a good, long, deep drink, you will teach it to go deep in search of water. This will require you to be more attentive to your trees, but in the long term, will allow you to be less attentive.

Mark Shepard advocates STUN in his tree management philosophy: sheer total utter neglect. Having a constant drip going, day and night, 24/7, it's the exact opposite of STUN. It's umbilical cord gardening, creating welfare trees.


thank you for your input, made me think, and it does make sense what you say. I set this system up because I thought the young trees would die in a desertish climate area (it rains about 3-4 times a year here) before I could water them again, since I can only visit once every 2 weeks. I will try a different approach. gonna shadow the trees and remove the drip system and only water them when I notice the leaves wilting.
 
Casie Becker
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The standard here in Central Texas (where we are prone to sometimes years of drought, though not actual desert) is regular deep waterings. The key is to have the roots follow the water deep into the ground so that between major rain events the roots don't dry out. If you're not providing enough water to saturate the soil to a depth several inches deep then tree will develop roots in the top of the soil. The moment you can't water, those top inches of soil begin to dry out. Without deeper roots your plants immediately begin to suffer drought stresses. Joseph's reasoning for a newly planting tree sounds about right, but by this point you probably want to be weaning off the constant water source. The advice in my climate is to give deep soakings twice a week and work down to once a week. Rather than waiting for our trees to wilt, see if the soil is wet six inches down. When it's dry it's time to water again.
 
Steve Farmer
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with constant drip you should aim for a quantity of water slightly more than the minimum the tree requires to stay alive.

The tree will only fail to send deep roots if you are giving it so much water that it can grow at its maximum rate.

So the key is alive but slightly thirsty. The shallow roots and constant drip keeps the tree from dying, but the tree still send deep roots as long as it wants more than you are giving it.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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