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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Watering Citrus in Bullhead City

This is an irrigation basin around a fruit tree. The basin keeps
water contained near the tree where the roots are. This basin
receives its water from a bubbler (upper left inside the basin).
This particular bubbler puts out two gallons per minute if the
water pressure is adequate or above (it is pressure
compensated which means if the pressure is higher than
adequate it will still give only 2 gallons per minute)
I have three trees  planted in a “L” shape with the orange and lime on the bottom of the “L” and a lemon on the top. They are about 6 years old and the trunks are about 5” in diameter. They are almost 6 ft. tall and about 7 ft. in diameter. I have the three on a separate circuit with each having a 1/2 “ p.v.c. bubbler providing water every other day at 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. for 15 minutes. this fills a water well that is about 4” deep and 4 ft. across for about 10 minutes after the water goes off. The water is then absorbed into the ground.
            I have tried to let the water run longer but it seem's to want to go outside of the well and not deeper into the well. I thought about cutting down on the flow so it would run longer and maybe soaked in to the well better but I have not tried that. I have been told to water once every 90 days and let it run for 3 hours. I would have to cut the bubblers just to a drip or it would flood the yard. I don’t know what is the best option. I get a heavy crop of limes now but just a few oranges, and they are half orange and half green. any suggestions?  Remember this is in Bullhead City and it gets very hot during june thru sept

A. I forwarded your question to Terry Mikel, retired Extension Horticulturist with the University of Arizona out of the Phoenix office who knows your location very well. Here it Terry's response:

I am familiar with much of the Bullhead City soils and conditions but I have yet to hear that watering every '90' days  . . . I should think, or hope someone might have meant or you meant every '9' days .. . That would be certainly a point of clarification . .
Irrigating citrus in Hermosillo, Mexico, at USON's research
farm. This is ditch irrigation which is terribly inefficient but
still more efficient than flooding the entire field.
Water moves toward the roots from the ditch
through the soil. The most
efficient would be drip irrigation and would not need a basin
or ditch but is expensive for farmers with hundreds of acres.

            I personally avoid giving calendar or numerical days for watering . . There are too many factors; for example, are you near the river with a heavy clay soil or up on the higher ground where the soil drains much better? . . .

            It sounds like you are careful and meticulous about watching the growth and you should check the soil in the morning hours and water when it is dry down a couple inches . .  .Remember to check in the morning not in the afternoon when the heat will dry all soils there down a couple inches . . In the morning the soil will have the cooling  of the night to percolate water up from below thus rehydrating (fancy word for wetting) the upper soil zone . . . If you want to add more water and much more efficiently then change how you add the water . .

Set the repeat cycle to  whatever time it takes the initial water to move into the soil and then run the set again instead of spacing it out for hours . . This is called surge watering and it works much better than the delay . . . Maybe next summer you can try and see if you can go more days between waterings without impacting the plant . .

If you have a fast draining soil it might not work; likewise, if your soil is heavier you might . . . Don't forget that a nice thick layer of mulch on the soil surface saves a lot of water from being lost into the air through evaporation . . .

There are some great Master Gardeners in your area that are both knowledgeable and grow lots of things under your conditions . .

With respect to the lime's yield vs. the orange's yield:  My first guess is the orange is a Navel type orange . . They are notoriously sensitive to hot dry condition and their fruits drop like flies . .

The plant itself does well but the fruits you get are great but the number you get is usually a disappointment . . .It's almost a shame they are sold . . .

Terry Mikel

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