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Watering Fruit trees

Photo by Álvaro Carrilho: https://www.pexels.com/photo/ripe-oranges-on-trees-10970006/

Watering fruit trees in the desert or semi-arid regions requires careful planning and efficient water management to ensure their survival and productivity while saving water. Here are some best methods and water-saving techniques for watering fruit trees in desert environments:

Watering Methods:

  1. Drip Irrigation: Install a drip irrigation system with emitters spaced around 30-60 centimeters apart, delivering water directly to the tree’s root zone. The emitters should have a flow rate of about 2-4 liters per hour.
  2. Soaker Hoses: Place soaker hoses in a spiral pattern around the base of the tree. Use hoses that have a slow and even flow, delivering around 2-4 liters of water per hour.
  3. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or compost, around the base of the tree. The mulch layer should be around 5-10 centimeters thick to retain soil moisture effectively.
  4. Watering Basins: Create a shallow watering basin around the tree’s base with a diameter of approximately 60-90 centimeters. The basin should be around 10-20 centimeters deep to hold the water and allow it to infiltrate deeply into the soil.

Watering Schedule:

  1. Young Trees (First Year): Young fruit trees require more frequent watering to establish their root systems. Water them every 2-3 days during hot weather, providing around 20-40 liters of water per watering session.
  2. Established Trees (Second Year Onward): Once the tree is established, gradually reduce the watering frequency to every 7-10 days. Provide approximately 40-80 liters of water per watering session to ensure deep penetration into the root zone.
  3. Citrus Trees: Citrus trees have higher water requirements. Adjust the watering volume based on the tree’s size and age, but provide approximately 60-100 liters of water per watering session.
  4. Stone Fruit Trees: Water stone fruit trees, like peaches, plums, and apricots, with around 40-80 liters of water per watering session, similar to other fruit trees.

Watering Times:

Water fruit trees early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler to reduce water loss through evaporation. Aim to start watering before 10 AM or after 4 PM.


Regularly check the soil moisture to ensure it remains consistently damp but not waterlogged. Insert a soil probe or your finger into the soil to a depth of about 10 centimeters to check for moisture. Adjust the watering schedule based on the soil moisture levels and the specific needs of your fruit trees.

Remember, the watering guidelines provided are general recommendations. Environmental factors, soil type, tree size, and individual tree needs may vary, so closely observe your trees and adjust the watering plan accordingly. Watering deeply and infrequently encourages healthy root growth and helps fruit trees withstand harsh desert conditions.

What else to consider:

When watering fruit trees in the desert, several other important factors should be considered to ensure their health and survival. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Soil Type: Different soil types, such as sandy, loamy, or clayey soils, have varying water-holding capacities and drainage characteristics. Understanding your soil type will help determine the appropriate watering frequency and volume.
  2. Tree Age and Size: Young trees have shallower root systems and may require more frequent watering than established ones. Adjust the watering schedule based on the tree’s age and size.
  3. Climate and Season: Desert climates experience extreme temperature variations and can be very arid. Adjust the watering schedule according to seasonal changes, temperature fluctuations, and precipitation levels.
  4. Water Quality: Water quality is essential. If using tap water, consider its mineral content and potential salinity. High salinity can lead to soil problems and impact plant health. In some cases, filtering or treating water may be necessary.
  5. Watering Depth: Watering deeply encourages the development of deep root systems, making the tree more resilient to drought conditions. Aim to saturate the soil to a depth of at least 30 centimeters (12 inches) or more, depending on the tree’s root depth.
  6. Avoid Overwatering: Overwatering can lead to root rot and other water-related issues. It’s crucial to strike a balance between keeping the soil moist and not saturating it excessively.
  7. Mulching: As mentioned earlier, mulching helps conserve soil moisture and regulates soil temperature, protecting the tree’s roots from extreme heat.

Measuring Soil Moisture:

There are several methods to measure soil moisture:

  1. Soil Probe/Moisture Meter: Use a soil probe or moisture meter to directly measure the soil’s moisture content. Insert the probe into the soil to the desired depth, and the meter will display the moisture level.
  2. Feel Test: Insert your finger into the soil to a depth of about 10 centimeters (4 inches). If the soil feels slightly moist, it’s usually an indication that the tree has enough water. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.
  3. Weight Test: For potted fruit trees, you can use the weight of the container as an indicator of soil moisture. Lift the pot when the soil is moist, and take note of its weight. As the soil dries out, the pot will become lighter, signaling the need for watering.
  4. Observation: Monitor your fruit trees for signs of water stress. Wilting, drooping leaves, or a change in leaf color may indicate that the tree needs water.

Remember that the ideal moisture level may vary based on the specific fruit tree species and its stage of growth. Regularly checking and adjusting the watering schedule based on these moisture measurements and tree responses will help maintain optimal conditions for your fruit trees in the desert environment.

Worthwhile videos

Here’s an inspirational video on growing hundreds of fruit trees with little extra water in Los Angeles….which has a similar rainfall pattern to Windhoek:

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