Irrigation is important in producing high quality tree fruit such as avocado, apples, peaches, plums, oranges, bananas, pawpaws and pears among others. Learning the art of watering fruit trees can be one of the most challenging things for beginning gardeners. Gardening in places with frequent rainfall can make life a bit easier, but If you’re living in a hot climate that sees very little rainfall, that compounds the issue. 

The best way to water a fruit tree is on a slow drip system.  This can be accomplished through utilizing an irrigation system set-up to a timer, with things like drip emitters, soakers, or bubblers.  Another way to achieve this type of watering is to water with a hose on a slow drip, while moving the hose around the base of the tree at designated time intervals.  Watering in a way that’s going to moisten the soil to at least a depth of 3 feet around the root zone is optimal.

We would like to discuss more on drip irrigation in this article.

Drip irrigation of fruit trees

Drip irrigation is a type of micro-irrigation system that has the potential to save water and nutrients by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of the plants, either above the soil surface or buried below the surface. Drip is the most efficient way to irrigate. It is usually about 90% efficient compared to about 70% for sprinkler and often 50% for surface irrigation. 

Besides the high water use efficiency (90%-95%), drip irrigation also reduces the risk of plant diseases that thrive in wet conditions. A typical drip irrigation system includes a water source (e.g., well water, river water), pump, a pressure regulating system, valves, pipeline, emitters, and other accessories. Drip irrigation is suitable to all soil types because of its extremely slow application rate and the high degree of control over timing and amounts.

Benefits of drip irrigation

  • Prevents disease by minimizing water contact with the leaves, stems, and fruit of plants.
  • Allows the rows between plants to remain dry, improving access and reducing weed growth.
  • Saves time, money, and water because the system is so efficient.
  • Decreases labor.
  • Increases effectiveness on uneven ground.
  • Reduces leaching of water and nutrients below the root zone.


Basic Components of Drip Irrigation

  • A filter or filters to prevent clogs that can plague the very small openings in a drip system. Choose between a larger Y- or T-filter for the entire system or smaller in-line filters.
  • A pressure regulator to protect against too-high water pressure, which can cause drip lines to burst
  • A swivel adapter, also known as a thread-to-tubing compression adaptor, to tie the larger-diameter plumbing pipes into the smaller-diameter drip lines.
  • Drip tubing for the water lines to the garden, generally made of polyethylene. The ½-inch tubing is best for the main line and larger branch lines. (Note: There are two types of ½-inch tubing, which are not the same size and don’t take the same-color fittings.)
  • Fittings to connect individual pieces of tubing. They can be straight coupling fittings, elbow joints, T-joints and four-way joints. You can also add shut-off valves. Green and blue fittings are for the two different types of ½-inch tubing; red fittings are for ⅜-inch tubing.
  • Emitters or button drippers, which deliver water from the lines to the soil. They generally dispense ½ gallon, 1 gallon or 2 gallons per hour (gph). Emitters with different rates of delivery can be used in a single system. The slower the drip rate, the more emitters you can add to the line and the greater distance your drip lines can run.

Basic Operation and Maintenance

Drip irrigation can be set to run automatically, like sprinklers, or controlled manually. Manual operation allows you to take advantage of rainfall before applying unnecessary water.

Because small amounts of water are applied slowly, drip irrigation is designed to run daily unless it rains. How long to run the drip irrigation system will depend on how much water plants require per day and the emitters’ flow rate. Water is applied either once or twice a day. Early morning is the best time to water because there will be less evaporation. Watering in the evening increases plant disease.

Check filters and emitters on a regular basis to ensure they are functioning properly and not clogged. To prevent winter damage, take up the drip irrigation system at the end of each gardening season.

Most suppliers/manufacturers of drip irrigation systems will provide specific design, installation, operation, and maintenance specifications and guidelines that should be carefully followed.

The cost of a drip irrigation system will vary depending on the size of the area to be irrigated and the type of emitters and tubing used. However, regardless of the size of the area being irrigated there is an initial upfront cost for standard items such as the valve, pressure regulator, and back flow preventer.

Why farmers need to embrace drip irrigation

  • To make fruit crops productive.
  • Help produce more from the available land, water and labor resources without either ecological or social harmony. 
  • Generate higher farm income, On-farm and off-farm employment. 
  • To use water efficiently. 
  • No water to runoff or evaporation and soil erosion. 
  • It reduces water contact with crop leaves, stems, and fruits. 
  • Agrochemicals can be applied more efficiently. 


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