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Watering Fruit Trees: When to Do it, and When to Avoid it

If you know best practices for watering fruit trees after planting and when they're established, you'll create a healthy bounty of sweet gems like apples, oranges, avocados and more!

watering fruit trees

So you want to start growing your own fruit trees. You have picked out one or two you want to try, but you still have some questions. Do you have the time for watering fruit trees? How fast will your fruits grow? And will you finally get to taste a freshly-plucked apple / pear / plum / orange / avocado /insert your favorite here? Is now your time to become the neighborhood baker of the best apple pies? Will you start your own peach orchard? Is now your time to accomplish your fruit tree dreams?

The answer is yes, always yes. But let’s start with one pesky detail that might help you determine which fruit tree you want to buy: watering fruit trees.

Every fruit tree is different, but in general, you should water weekly the first year they’re in the ground.

Many fruit trees below require what’s called a “deep soak” which generally requires 40 minutes of watering to reach depths of 12-24 inches.

Watering may also depend on the soil they’re planted in. For example, a pear tree planted in regular soil needs to be watered twice a week, but if it’s planted in clay, it only needs it once a week.

When planting and maintaining fruit trees, it’s best to stick to watering fruit trees according to the instructions for your specific fruit. Even the varietal can make a difference. But in general terms, these are the types of watering habits you can expect from the most popular types of fruit trees.

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Watering Fruit Trees

Avocados ready for harvesting. Watering Fruit Trees

Avocados ready for harvesting

When to Water Avocado Trees: Once it’s planted, water the entire area under your new tree’s canopy every other day for a week. A new tree can hold up to about 2 gallons of water at planting. After that, water two or three times a week for a couple of months, continuing this if no rain falls for five or more days. The idea is to allow the soil to dry out slightly before you water again. The roots will stay in the top 6 inches of soil, so they’ll dry out quickly. Once the tree is mature, you’ll need to water about 2 inches’ worth every week during the summer. Tip: When watering, apply the water at the base of the tree and avoid getting the leaves or trunk wet. Excessive moisture around the base of the tree causes dothiorella canker and phytophthora canker collar rot. If these problems occur, scrape the trunk to remove the affected bark.

Peach seedling with stake supports.

When to Water Peach Trees: Water peach trees at least weekly during the first year in the ground. Established trees need a regular supply of water throughout any growing season, but keep in mind you’ll get the most succulent, juicy fruit by keeping the soil evenly moist, not excessively wet.

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When to Water Apple Trees: Water apple trees at least weekly during the first year in the ground. Since apple trees are generally planted in zones with plenty of rainfall, there’s no watering requirement for established trees unless you’re having a particularly dry summer.

When to Water Orange Trees: Once in the ground, water twice a week until it shows new growth. Then, let it dry between every watering and deep-water every two weeks or so. In a tropical climate where there is plenty of rain, you may not need to water at all.

When to Water Lemon Trees: Lemon trees need to be watered similarly to orange trees. Once in the ground, water twice a week until it shows new growth. Then, let it dry between every watering and deep-water every two weeks if you haven’t had significant rainfall.

Discover 7 top tips for growing, harvesting, and enjoying tomatoes from your home garden—when you access the FREE guide The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes, right now!

apricot tree Watering Fruit Trees

When to Water Apricot Trees: Apricot trees like water when they are producing fruits and should be watered twice per week. When watering, you should be soaking the ground from a foot to 18” deep, which you can use a watering meter to measure.

When to Water Plum Trees: Plum trees are water lovers, too. They want soil to be moist up to 24 inches deep, so a sprinkler is often required to truly flood the area every two weeks or so, which should do the trick.

watering fruit trees, cherry trees

When to Water Cherry Trees: Cherry trees might as well be Pisces, because like apricot and plum trees, they love water and their first year makes a huge difference. After planting, water deeply every other day for a week, then every two days for a week. After that, water them once a week for the whole season.

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watering pear trees

When to Water Pear Trees: Pears, too, like water, but not too much water. When planting, you’ll want to give the tree a deep soak, but once it’s established and fruiting, an inch of water a week it all it needs and can come from a single rainstorm.

General signs of under-watering fruit trees include:

  • Leaves that are wilted or curling
  • Leaves displaying fall colors, turning brown, red and yellow
  • Leaves that are dropping off the tree

In citrus trees like lemon trees, this can be tricky, because generally lemon trees will hold their leaves until you water them, so you might think watering them is causing the problem, in reality it’s the dryness.

General signs of over-watering fruit trees include: 

  • A base that stays wet and moist and never dries out
  • New growth that quickly shrinks, turns color, or wilts
  • Leaves that simply appear to be holding more water but may crumble when you pull them.

Once your fruit trees are in the ground for a year or more, they can handle less maintenance and manual watering. The weather may be enough to keep them sufficiently moist when planted in their ideal planting zones. However, in that first year, paying attention to guidelines given for your specific tree will make all the difference.

Do you agree with these guidelines on watering fruit trees? What’s your experience?

Discover 7 top tips for growing, harvesting, and enjoying tomatoes from your home garden—when you access the FREE guide The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes, right now!

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