Now that summer has arrived in all its glory, irrigating fruit trees becomes even more important. Fruit trees that don’t receive enough water will have stunted growth and the leaves may wilt, curl, and sunburn. Good irrigation practices provide trees with water when they need it. Fruit trees that were planted this spring or last year will need regular watering to survive and become established.
Usually, two to three gallons provided from a bucket a couple of times a week is sufficient for young trees. A mature fruit tree can lose 15 to 50 gallons of water a day during midsummer. This water loss through transpiration must be replaced through the soil. Sols that are high in clay hold the most water while soils that are sandy have the least water retention.
In most suburban backyards, irrigation to established fruit trees is provided by sprinklers that are designed to water grass and ornamentals, however, fruit trees do best with less frequent but longer, deeper, irrigation. Allowing the soil to dry between irrigation cycles is critical to preventing soil-borne diseases and to allow oxygen to the roots. Turfgrass only requires irrigation every three to four days if watered deeply enough. Don’t water turf grass, or fruit trees, every day. In the late summer and fall, continue to irrigate fruit trees. Subjecting trees to water stress in preparation is not a good practice. Trees will acclimate better for winter if the soil is moist in the fall.
This is Teryl Roper, Extension Pomologist at Utah State University.