In this article, we will discuss watering fruit crops, which I think many gardeners overlook, especially in the rainy fall. Many people think that the rain that thunders on the roof all night will soak the soil to a sufficient depth that you can do without extra manual watering and without spending extra money on water.
We’ll tell you why and teach you how to water the garden properly.
WHAT IS THE DANGER OF NOT WATERING IN AUTUMN?
The truth is that along with the summer rains, which often spoil our leisure in nature, we increasingly see dry autumn. We enjoy the golden fall, the dry yellowing leaves on the trees, the harvested crops, the birch and poplar trees that seem to start dropping their leaves a little earlier, enjoying the rustle under our feet and walking down the alleys, definitely not thinking that during this period the trees are asking us for help, just wilting in thirst.
In fact, during the preparation for a severe and very long winter, the lack of water for plants is sometimes worse than drought, even during the growing season, when food is provided by photosynthesis. That is, from the sun, which stimulates the roots to grow deeper into the soil, where there may still be water. On the other hand, in the fall, no leaves, just you, and irrigation water (or rain, if they are really abundant and last for hours rather than minutes) can help the roots grow and prepare the plant for winter.
Watering takes care of the fall drought and prepares plants for a long winter and a successful overwintering season. This all seems logical, clear, and understandable, but the controversy about the necessity of watering has failed, and for some reason one galactic gardener flatly refuses to believe in its validity, even saying that watering can harm plants.
Don’t believe this claim, although there is little truth to the harm to plants.
CAN WATERING HURT PLANTS?
The harm may lie in the overwatering of drupe crops, whose sore point is the root stump. When doing watering, it is important to make sure that the water is absorbed and the area around the root neck is relatively dry.
Under no circumstances should water accumulate there and stay there for long periods of time, as this can lead to buried, rotting root necks and even the death of stone seeds. And most interestingly, at almost any stage of its development, i.e. as a small plant and as a tall giant. Be careful here, it is best to loosen the soil at the neck of the roots after watering, being very careful so that the excess water can runoff.
Of course, this applies to all representatives of drupe crops, for those who do not know – not only the usual and prairie cherries and sweet cherries, but also apricots, cherry plums, and plums, as well as the sandy and ursine species.
Therefore, if you are not confident in your abilities and are afraid of these crops, it is perfectly possible to reduce the amount of watering by half or not irrigate drupe crops at all.
Moreover, watering has been shown to be harmful on soils where water is poorly absorbed and stagnates for a long time at the roots, which can lead to their decay (for example, these are heavy clay soils). It is quite dangerous to pour large amounts of water on low-lying areas, where there is already a lot of water accumulated from the surrounding areas, as well as on those areas where groundwater is located more than 80inch (2 meters) above the soil surface.
EXPERIMENTS WITH WATERING
Therefore, we tell you about the dangers of wet irrigation. If you water your plants in the fall, it is perhaps the only negative factor that can happen, and only with drupes, only on a specific, let’s even say strictly defined soil type. But if there are still people who are not convinced that watering works, we suggest you do a simple experiment.
For example, there are six apple trees on your plot, three of them should be watered as we recommend and three should be left alone; you should estimate the parameters of next year’s apple trees, their growth, harvest, weight, taste, and even the number of pests and diseases, all on these and other apple trees.
It is not a secret that if the plant tries to winter well, it will maintain its immunity and be able to resist some, if not all, diseases and pests. Not so with the apple tree, which literally survived the entire winter waiting for the long-awaited warmth.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF WATERING?
So let’s move on to more specific actions, but first, let us tell you what the effects of fall watering are on your plants.
Helps the root system grow in the fall
Few people may know this, but during the fall, not all of course, but usually during September and most of October, plants have very intensive root growth. It is especially during this time that the plant’s most desired absorptive root system actively develops.
Through the development of the absorptive root system in the fall, the plant continues to accumulate excess nutrients that were wasted during the fruiting period as well as nutrients needed for normal winter survival. A variety of substances, which we will not go into detail about now.
Of course, we all know that the plant can only absorb nutrients in dissolved form, from the dry soil ball, alas, it can not suck up anything, otherwise, we would live more quietly. Therefore, during this most important period for the plant, the soil must not be just slightly moist, but sufficiently moist and right at the depth of this absorptive root system, not where the roots of wheatgrass and dandelion grow.
If the soil is dry, the growth of the absorptive root system may be severely slowed or completely absent. What will this lead to? No benefit: the plants will be weakened, their immunity will be reduced, they will be prepared for winter in the worst possible way, and their chances of freezing during the winter will be the greatest.
We are not talking here about the tips of immature shoots (all this is trivial), but about the freezing of entire branches or the overall death of all trees. Often, in severe winters, entire apple orchards die simply because no one even thinks about watering: so why bother driving the machine and spending extra money?
Water will keep you warm
Yes, strange and surprising as it may seem, soil that has been properly watered with shallow water freezes much more slowly and not as deep as dry soil or soil that lacks moisture. Scientifically speaking, the more water in the soil, the greater the heat capacity of soaked soil, certainly several times higher than dry soil.
Therefore, moisture-soaked fall irrigation retains heat in the soil longer, freezes very slowly, and thaws very slowly.
The skeptic will argue: the soil is moist and thaws more slowly! Yes, perfectly true, but precisely during the provocative winter thaw, when the sun does not warm up as it does in spring, but only exposes its rays for a short time. If the soil is dry, it starts to warm up, especially in weak areas covered with snow, and provokes the recovery of the roots, which can be very negative after a sharp drop in temperature.
But on soil, well-watered from autumn, the roots will not even notice it, and during the thaw period, the soil will not have time to thaw completely.
Cannot tolerate winter dryness
Only a few professional gardeners know that autumn watering can easily prevent the very unpleasant phenomenon of dryness in winter. This negative phenomenon can sometimes be worse than frost. How does it happen? Even in winter, shoots still evaporate water; even though they are barely visible and slow, they still do so, especially on the south-facing side of the tree.
With the lack of moisture in the soil in the fall, the root system is unable to store water in the plant tissue beforehand, and now that the root system is not working, the plant is wasting its last reserves. As a result, we often notice completely dry shoots on the south side of the tree, and sometimes rejoice in the fact that there are many sunny days in winter – and this is the result.
The dryness is particularly strong when the skies are clear and clean, there are biting icy winds, and the period is close to spring, i.e. March or April: during this period the sun has warmed up properly (you can even sunbathe on the roof).
However, this problem can be safely avoided if there is enough moisture in the soil in autumn, especially for shrubs with a depth of 23inch (0.6m) and trees with a depth of 80inch (2m).
Not enough moisture in the spring? No problem!
Well, finally, before we tell you how, when and how much moisture to water, we will tell you another benefit of fall watering – it is the problem of insufficient spring moisture. Yes, yes, it happens, and it happens often; it doesn’t always snow in the winter, and sometimes the snow doesn’t melt but actually evaporates, and the water doesn’t get into the soil as much as we would like it to. Therefore, it is not possible to rely on springs and natural watering, nor to replace it with artificial watering.
In general, there are many cases in which trees find themselves without water in spring – not only the rapid evaporation of snow but also, for example, snow that falls on frozen soil and melting water that simply runs off from the deeper layers that have not yet melted, etc.
And now they have to trample, keep, delay and, in general, try to keep this (temporarily frozen) water or most of it in the garden, or water wet watering, but already in the spring.
WHEN SHOULD I WATER?
There is no need to rush, you can usually start watering from the end of September. Don’t pay attention to the rains, they hardly soak the soil to such a depth that we need, if it rains and you water the soil, then let all the neighbors laugh, in response, we will laugh in spring or fall for their crops or frozen trees.
In the case of summer drought, for example in 2010, then watering can be freely postponed for 10-12 days, otherwise, the trees recover, simply after clinical death, can start to grow, which is not necessary for us at all. In any case, we have to wait for a large number of leaves to fall (when more than half of them have fallen to the ground) and then start watering.
Some gardeners delay too long, watering in October or even later. This is not good, remember, in the beginning, we talked about root growth? So the less time you leave it to grow until the moment the soil freezes, the less water will accumulate in the tissues, and if there is not enough water in the soil, some of the roots absorbed will even shrivel up before October. Obviously, this does not do any good for spring plants.
HOW MUCH WATER DO I NEED FOR WATERING?
It is possible to wet only the top layer, but it will not do any good, so if you start watering, then water well. For example, to fully soak the deepest layer of fully drained soil where the water table is low, you need to pour about 26.4 gals (100 liters) of water per square meter. But this is on average, not at a certain time. It depends entirely on the age of the soil and the plants.
First of all when the tree is less than 5 years old: half of this “dose” is quite enough, and watering can be done not in one day, but two to three days. But if the tree is more than ten years old and has a wide, spreading canopy, then instead the dose can be doubled, but again the watering should be extended by at least a few days so that the water is absorbed by the soil and not spread on the site.
Then there is the weather – if it is dry in autumn then the watering can be increased by 25-30%, if it rains every day then it is reduced by 30%. Clay soil, as we wrote above, is better not to touch it at all to avoid trouble, and on sandy soil, add 15-20% to the initial rate.
TECHNIQUES OF WATERING
You can safely say “as you wish” and make a point. But the truth is that much depends on the type of soil and how actively the water is absorbed. Try not to fall on and around the trunk of the tree. Stand back 5-6inch (12-15cm) from the center and calmly water the soil with a hose or carry a bucket, and if someone likes to be precise, don’t make a mistake on the amount.
If the soil is heavy, you can cheat because the water is poorly absorbed. Then around the crown, carefully, trying not to damage the roots, make holes by staking them to a depth of about 40inch (1 meter) and remove them. The stakes should be larger in width, at least 6inch (15-20 cm) so that the maximum amount of water can be poured in and you don’t have to wait long for it to soak through.
If the soil is flat, common loam, sandy loam, gray forest soil, etc., simply place a hose under the canopy, a specified distance away from the trunk, and watch the water consumption with a water meter to see how much water is being consumed.
If the soil is so loose that it is simply sandy and the hose can be washed out to the roots, then you have to stand with the hose and spray all over the root zone (where you can only sympathize and hope you have fewer trees).
Anyway, for those of you who don’t have a water meter. Everything is simple: take a stopwatch (every phone has one in it), put the hose in the bucket, and press start, when the bucket is filled, press end so you understand how many seconds or minutes (it depends on the pressure) will fill your bucket.
You just have to calculate how many minutes it will take to rinse with the hose by your bed, sipping coffee and looking out the window at how the soil is rich in needed, or rather, much-needed water.