If you have two thumbs and live in Australia, you might have thought about irrigating your yard. If you’ve been a customer of PlantNet®, you’ve definitely considered irrigation for them. Whether potted or planted, there are irrigation options for you, and I’ll highlight the best irrigation for your situation, and what to consider. This blog will highlight the two best and most used: drip irrigation, and sprinkling. Read on for more!
Potted Fruit Trees
Most people don’t irrigate their potted trees however, you may want to:
- Reduce your water usage.
- Streamline your watering process for efficiency.
- Spend less time watering and more time picking fruit!
The best option for potted fruit trees is the use of driplines – specifically, tubing with tiny orifices that emit water droplets. Many retail and wholesale nurseries will use dripline on their potted plants, with the plants either freestanding with dripline running along the ground or tied to fencing with irrigation lines attached to the fence, and drippers leading down to the pots. See below for examples of this from our Fruit Tree Fertiliser Trials.
Young trees have two drip lines with the main irrigation line running along the ground.
Mature trees have more drip lines added with the main line running along the fencing. The fencing also prevents wind damage by keeping the fruit tree upright.
If using this method, start with 2 drippers once you’ve potted your fruit tree into its 50cm diameter pot. This water quantity will get the plants started without wasting water. Remember that potted trees can dry out faster than planted trees in summer, so you should experiment with frequency and duration of watering. A general guide is once every 2-3 days during summer.
I wouldn’t suggest any other method of irrigation for potted fruit trees, unless you have many potted trees that you can cover with a sprinkler. Keep in mind that above ground sprinkling is usually less efficient than drip irrigation because of evaporation, wind, and lower accuracy.
Planted Fruit Trees
There are two main methods used by the backyard gardener for irrigating planted fruit trees: above ground sprinkling, and drip irrigation. There are advantages and disadvantages to both irrigation methods:
- Advantages: Water line is easy to move, good for backyards with garden beds, has a flexible flow rate, and can reach most areas of the root zone when a tree is watered for long enough.
- Disadvantages: Increased water loss with evaporation, increased water run off on sloped areas, increased fertiliser leaching, reduced accuracy of water reaching the root zone, and more weeds.
- Advantages: Reduced water loss, reduced fertiliser loss, good for rows and areas on slopes, simple to use once established, less weeds.
- Disadvantages: Difficult to move, trees concentrate root growth under drip orifices, and more laborious set-up.
Out of these listed advantages and disadvantages, decide on what method would be best for your garden.
If you decide on above ground sprinkling, it’s wise to invest in a good quality garden hose and a tap timer so that you reduce the chance of hose malfunctions and the speed of deterioration in the hose. Normal circular sprinklers can be found at any garden store, and these are a perfect way to start. Place your sprinkler where water can land around the dripline of your fruit tree. This allows water to reach the feeder roots and prevents root rot.
In this situation it’s best to use a sprinkler on garden beds as well as your fruit tree, or on a well looked after lawn. The worst thing you can do for your backyard is water weeds. When you water weeds, they can eventually compete with your fruit tree and reduce its productivity.
If you choose drip irrigation, there are a few factors to consider before you start:
- How many fruit trees are you watering
- How will you lay your drip lines around your fruit tree?
- How many drip points will you give your fruit tree?
All three factors depend on the organization of your trees (ie organised rows or random placement), age of your tree, and your soil type. See my suggestions below for how to best lay your drip lines, and when to use each method:
When planting young plants, start with manually punching two drip points into your line, and add more as the tree ages. Do not move your drip line if you can avoid it. If you need to move your drip line, do it during a rainy period to avoid root stress. There are many tools you can use to lengthen your drip line and add more drip points – ask your local garden centre for more advice! It’s also a good idea to invest in a tap timer to avoid accidental over watering.
A Word on Porous Pipes
Many gardeners love to use porous pipes. They look cool, they work great for veggie gardens, and they’re reasonably easy to install. If you would like to use porous pipes for irrigation, note that the wear on the porous material is much faster than wearing on standard irrigation piping. For longevity of your irrigation set-up, I would not suggest you use porous pipes on deciduous fruit trees.
Irrigation is important to play with when it may reduce your water usage, especially in Australia where droughts are periodically impacting our water access. It’s also a cost-effective way to water your trees, provided you’ve chosen the right method for your backyard! Ensure you experiment with watering frequency and duration to perfect your new watering regime in your backyard.
And don’t forget, invest in a tap timer!
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Alder G, 2022, Watering Fruit Trees with Drip Irrigation, accessed 30/09/2022, https://gregalder.com/yardposts/watering-fruit-trees-with-drip-irrigation/.
Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland, 2019, Drip Irrigation Design & Management, accessed 30/09/2022, file:///C:/Users/Mark/Downloads/Drip%20irrigation%20design%20&%3B%20management%20(reviewed)%202020%20LM.pdf.