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Fruit Trees Overwatered/Underwatered - How do I tell?

Fruit Trees Overwatered/Underwatered - How do I tell?


Old 09-09-09, 09:30 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Fullerton, CA (Zone 9b)
Posts: 22
Fruit Trees Overwatered/Underwatered - How do I tell?

I'm new to growing just about everything, but especially fruit trees. I have three established dwarf apricot trees, a recently planted dwarf orange tree and a recently planted fuerte avocado tree. I'm having a hard time figuring out if they're getting enough water or too much. I know the avocado and citrus trees are supposed to like to dry out some between watering, but how much? I bought a cheap moisture meter, but I'm not sure how reliable they are.

Is there a general rule of thumb that can help me tell if my trees are getting enough water or if they're getting too much?

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Old 09-09-09, 04:50 PM
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Generally established trees don't need your help unless there is a drought. You should concentrate on getting soil samples to see if you have the right nutrients for what you are growing, and adjust that in order to keep them running. For the new trees, water them good once, and check the moisture after a week or so. Remember moisture stays right under the surface of the ground, so even if the ground looks dry, dig a little dirt and see the moisture. Moisture also comes to the surface every morning, so checking the moisture with your meter would be best done in the early evening.
Old 09-13-09, 02:06 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: KY
Posts: 2
I'll have to admit that what I know about the specific trees and the area you live in would fit in a thimble so my answer is going to be a little generalized.

It's a good thing that you are asking about watering. Watering problems are frequently the cause of plant deaths in my experience. One issue is that the physiological response or the symptoms of over watering and under watering are often the same. People see a plant with drooping leaves and they automatically expect it to be lacking water when it can actually be too wet.

One thing to consider on the frequency of irrigation is how well drained is your soil. The sandier a soil is the faster water drains through and the quicker it dries out. That means all other conditions being the same the sandier the soil the more frequent irrigation will need to be.

Likewise the higher organic matter that is present in a soil the more water that can be stored. SO if you have a soil high in organic matter the frequency of irrigation can be decreased.

Obviously climate both macro and micro affect irrigation needs. Macroclimate varies around the country so I can't give specifics but basically the higher the temperature, and lower the humidity the more water is going to be lost from the plant and from the soil. Transpiration is water loss by the plant, and evaporation is water loss by the soil.

Microclimate can important too. The same plant growing in full sun will require more water than if growing in part shade. Likewise a plant next to large masses of concrete, rock, paving etc will use more water than one far away from heat sinks such as these.

In KY, and I only speak for this for example, a good rule of thumb is 1" of irrigation per week during the active growing season on average. Keep in mind that most soils can store some amounts of water for future use. This means that when springs rains are frequent (exceeding 1" per week) we don't need to worry about irrigating immediately when in a one week period it happens not to rain. There is sufficient moisture stored in the ground to keep the plant growing. Obviously plants use more water during the heat of July than in May but again the storage capacity of the soil buffers and accounts for the extra water and it does average out over the season.

One good practice to help plants and soils gain and retain more water is mulching with organic materials. These help retain moisture in part by moderating soil temperature, and thus slowing evaporation. Likewise they encourage the infiltration of precipitation or irrigation into the soil. IT also is a method of enriching the soil because as the material breaks down it releases nutrients. Mulches also help prevent weeds that compete with the tree.

A good source of information can be the Cooperative Extension Service in your state. They should be able to provide you with specific information for you region.
Old 09-16-09, 03:02 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Fullerton, CA (Zone 9b)
Posts: 22
Thanks for the responses. Some great information. However, I'm still not sure of what I should be looking for in order to determine if my trees are getting too much or not enough water. I've noticed my avocado tree drooping a few times now and each time I gave it water and each time it perked up within a half day of getting that water. But it sounds like I just got lucky if drooping can mean both too much or too little water. Are there other signs I can look for to help diagnose trouble?

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