Yesterday afternoon, the temperatures here on the north end of town (Southern Nevada), reached a high of 110° F. By 9:30 PM it had cooled to 102° F. I definitely checked in on my fruit trees yesterday to see if they needed a sip of water. After checking the soil with my handy-dandy soil moisture meter, I confirmed the trees in the front yard orchard needed water. The back yard orchard will get their drink today. It’s supposed to be 110° F again today.
With a budget of about $0 right now for our permanent watering system, hubby and I had to improvise by setting up a “temporary” watering system to help the watering process go a little quicker for me. Yup, I’m the keeper of the fruit trees and darned proud of it! I love caring for my trees, but I do have to say though, moving the hose from tree to tree in the front and back gets to be a little much, especially when you have 16 trees to care for (not that I’m complaining or anything).
With this heat, the “temporary” watering system is a huge help! We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to install our permanent watering system sometime next spring.
My husband is very talented in figuring out and implementing solutions for “mechanical type things”. He’s a “take it apart, analyze it and put it back together better than before” kinda guy. I love that about him. Give him a problem like coming up with a temporary solution for watering our trees and he’s all over it. We’re both perfectionists, but he definitely takes it to a whole other level.
I’m going to attempt to relay his genius right here in my blog, though it’s not my area of specialty, so I apologize up front if I’m not 100% accurate in my description of the temporary watering system (sweetie, you know I try my best 🙂 ).
At the beginning of the system, hubby installed an in-line 25 psi pressure-reducing valve to help regulate water flow to all the trees. Initially, he tested it without the pressure-reducing valve, but the water pressure was too high and water only went to the first two trees.
He also installed a quick disconnect where the system ties into the hose.
The temporary system comprises of a series of pvc pipes (¾” for the main line going down between the trees and ¾” pvc pipe that T’s off to each tree).
From there the ¾” pvc pipe connects ¾” funny pipe to form a circle within each tree’s water basin.
Each loop of funny pipe has a series of 5 gph non-adjustable emitters (the green item) with diffuser cap (the black item) on the end of each emitter to prevent the emitters from spraying the trees and leaves with water (not a good thing here in the desert).
After installation, hubby and I tested the system by doing a quick water flow test and determined that the trees at the beginning of the line and at the end of the line received the same amount of water at the same flow rate.
With a few quick “technical” adjustments to the system (i.e., put a small flat rock under each emitter to prevent the dripping water from “drilling a hole to china” directly underneath each emitter). The system was in place. Hubby also installed a shut-off valve on the first tree in the line (our All-in-One Almond). The reason: to prevent water overflowing the water basin – the Almond’s water basin is smaller than the other tree basins.
Our last step in the process is to cover the exposed pvc pipe and funny pipe with mulch. Up until a couple of weeks ago, the weather has been cooler, rainy, overcast, etc. so we’ve been able to put off the task of covering the pipes. That’s not the case anymore. The sun is brutal and can make the pvc pipe brittle and crack very quickly here in the low desert. We never intended for this setup to last more than one season, but I need it to last until at least the spring.
We started using the system on July 9th and it’s been working like a charm. Now I just go out, turn on the hose, take a look at the trees to make sure they’re doing okay and to check that the emitters are flowing properly. I let the water run for a little over an hour (equates to approximately 20 gallons per tree). After the water is shut-off, the water continues to seep deep down into the soil (I know this because I’ve checked it with my soil moisture meter) and my trees are happy.
We may be giving our trees a tad too much water at each watering , but I’m not too concerned at this point. We have not been able to put mulch down for our trees yet (this should be happening in the next couple of weeks) so I feel the little extra is helpful for a deep cool soak. Now mind you, I am very careful to not over water. I’m no expert when it comes to watering fruit trees, but I do give it my best to get it close to right. I believe I mentioned this before, but it’s worth mentioning again…
You cannot over water your trees by watering too much at one time
You can over water your trees by watering too often
I try to test my soil with my soil moisture meter on my scheduled watering days (before I water) to confirm the need to water that day. Currently I am watering approximately 3x a week.
If the soil is still moist, I hold off on watering until the next day or so. Testing the moisture level in the soil is especially important if there are any temperature changes (hot or cold) and if there has been rain or wind. If the weather and temperatures have been consistent with no extreme changes, I’ll just go ahead and keep to my schedule without testing. I also keep a close eye on the trees themselves to make sure there are no signs of yellowing, dry or burnt looking leaves, etc.
Also, if it’s really windy, whether or not it’s my scheduled watering day or not, I’ll test the soil with my meter the very next day to see how the winds impacted my soil’s moisture levels.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not. It’s VERY easy to take a couple of seconds to slip the meter into the soil and view the instant moisture level reading. I also only check a couple of trees each time in both the front and the back orchard. This gives me a good idea if I need to water or not. I also re-calibrate my moisture meter every couple of months to ensure accuracy of the reading. For my soil moisture meter, this involves a quick slip of the meter into a cup of water and a simple turn of the dial to make any adjustments.
For the back yard orchard, I’m still using the “flood” method. The process: turn on the hose to a slow gentle flow, place the hose in the water basin and let it run for about 15 minutes per tree. I tested the water flow before and it came out to be approximately 1 gallon per minute.
Before and After Photos
For fun, I’ve included a couple of before and after photos of my Black Mission Fig and Wonderful Pomegranate. When they were delivered, both were only about 12” or so high. I tried to find a better before shot of the Fig (alone) when we first got it (it was just a stick then), but I had no success. But you can see from the photos how much it has grown in just over a month.
Remember to make time to do something you love today and stay cool.
The Artistic Desert Gardener