Watering fruit trees is an essential part of orchard care, and urban trees in particular require adequate water to combat the ‘urban heat island’ effect. It is vital that we ensure our trees get the water they need, especially for young trees that are just getting established. Approximately 30-50% of urban trees die within the first years of being planted – but our tree survival rate at The Orchard Project is 95%+ due to our emphasis on aftercare. Below is our comprehensive advice for helping your trees flourish and stay fruitful for years to come.
How much water?
For newly planted trees, we recommend approximately 20 litres per tree per week. Water provides the tree with essential hydration and helps loosen poor and compacted soil, which is common in the inner-city areas where we plant our orchards. This helps the root system to spread, making the tree more resilient and better equipped to extract nutrients from the soil. You can further help this process by introducing deep-rooted plants like comfrey (which will also enrich your soil with a variety of essential nutrients).
For more established trees, we recommend watering every 2-3 weeks. The amount of water will depend on the weather and your tree’s preferences – the best way to determine how much is to spend plenty of time in your orchard, noticing how the trees respond to the water you’re providing.
Water’s helping hand: mulch
We love mulch! It’s the perfect accompaniment to regularly watering fruit trees. Not only does it lock moisture into the soil, it also regulates the soil temperature, reduces unwanted weeds, and enriches the soil with microorganisms and fungi. A healthy layer of mulch strengthens the mycorrhizal network around your tree’s roots, leading to healthier, happier trees.
You’ll want a layer of mulch all around your tree, leaving a little doughnut-shaped gap at the base of the tree to ensure the graft union isn’t covered. Mulch should spread in a 0.5m radius around the tree (see below). For the first two years, soak your entire mulch area to encourage the roots to grow outwards. In subsequent years, focus any watering and feeding around the drip line, as this is where the absorbing roots will lie; there’s little point in watering and feeding the woody ‘secondary’ growth around the base of the trunk.
Read more about mulch here.
We recommend collecting rainwater in your orchard, and ideally planting close to a water tap. Transporting large amounts of water can be difficult work, which is why the H2go is a great asset for community orchards. It is a water bag designed to sit in a wheelbarrow and can be filled up and emptied through a spout by simply tilting the barrow forward. With 80L capacity, it can soak four trees in one go!