Irrigation in the Orchard

Irrigation in the Orchard

After above average rainfall in the Hudson Valley in May, now in the middle of July it has become hot and dry.  Our fruit trees are getting water stressed and need a significant amount of supplemental moisture!   Many of our older trees are transpiring 6-12 gallons of water a day under these high heat conditions.  If the trees can’t get water from the soil, they begin to shut down growth functions and the fruit will stop growing.  Since Mother Nature has not given us any significant rain lately, we have gotten the irrigation pumps and pipes out in the last few days.   Our water sources for irrigation are farm ponds that have been built for this purpose over the last 50 years.  Some ponds are as large as three acres.  Some years we irrigate until we nearly drain the ponds.  We have enough water in the ponds to irrigate the 90 acres on the Milton farm at least twice.

Each morning we lay 4 inch pipe from the pond to the needy trees and use a 12 foot tower with a large sprinkler on top.  This sprinkler rotates 360 degrees about every six minutes and shoots water out about 140 feet  applying  the equivalent of about three inches of rain in three hours.   A very impressive water pistol!  This past week we have been doing three “sets” a day which means we have moved the pipe 3 times and applied  about 3 “ of water to to each of three “blocks” of trees.   We have just finished watering all the peach trees, insuring good growth and sweet flavor.   On Monday we will move the pipe into the apple trees.  Running two sets a day,  it will take about  2 weeks to irrigate all the apple trees.  If the needed rains have still not come, we will begin the irrigation rotation over again, especially on the apple trees which still have 6 – 8 weeks to grow.  It is a lot of work and expense to irrigate, but the size and quality of the fruit will be compromised if we don’t get natural rain or supply the water by irrigating.  We are committed to producing the finest fruit for our customers.

Our new high density (700 trees/ acre) apple blocks have trickle irrigation installed at the time of planting.  These dwarf trees have small root systems and need daily supplements of water to maximize their production capabilities.  Because this is a more efficient way of irrigating in terms of both labor and water use, it is another step in our efforts to become more “green”.

Written by Judy

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