Fruit trees that don’t receive enough water will have stunted growth and the leaves may wilt, curl and sunburn. Fruit can also be affected, resulting in fruit that is small, shriveled and sunburned. Thus, irrigating trees is very important during the spring, summer and fall in arid Utah.
Good irrigation practices provide trees with the water they need when they need it. Fruit trees that were planted this spring or last year will need regular watering to survive and become established.
Build a small reservoir around each tree to contain water and keep it around the tree. Keeping vegetation such as grass, weeds and flowers away from the fruit tree trunk is important. Weeds or other vegetation will take up water intended for your fruit trees.
Consider spreading a generous layer of mulch or compost around the base of each tree to prevent weed growth, water loss and soil heating. A mature fruit tree can lose 15 to 50 gallons of water a day during mid-summer.
This water, lost through transpiration must be replaced through the soil. In most suburban backyards, irrigation to establish 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 prevent soil-borne diseases and to allow oxygen to the roots.
In the late summer and fall, continue to irrigate fruit trees. This is particularly important for trees such as cherries, apricots and peaches, whose fruit has already been harvested, and the trees may be neglected after harvest. Subjecting trees to water stress in preparation for winter is not a good practice. Trees will acclimate better for winter if the soil is moist in the fall.