Q. My pine trees are over 20 years old and very tall. I looked on the net and found a YouTube video out of Kansas showing a man using a 5 gallon bucket with a pin hole in the bottom for the purpose of watering them. I called my landscaping guy and he said that I am wasting water by watering that way. Am I doing right by watering with buckets or is he correct about this method?
A. Using a bucket with a small hole in it works just like drip irrigation as long as the holes is small enough that it lets the water out very slowly. Using buckets is similar to the very first form of drip irrigation which was sinking unglazed ceramic pots into the soil.
|Series of pictures showing what the reader did after getting a few ideas here on how to water his large pine tree with buckets.|
You will have to fill the buckets two or three times each time you water to get the water deep enough in the soil to encourage deeper rooting. Don’t water again for about a week at this time of year; less often in winter and maybe twice a week in the heat of summer. Deep watering helps avoid the development of large surface roots that can heave sidewalks, driveways, walls and foundations.
This type of system accomplishes the same thing as a drip system but with more work on your part and will be kind of ugly. But it will work. I would use about five or more buckets distributed under the canopy, about three or 4 feet apart. The more buckets, the better.
The buckets are not made with UV treated plastic so you should paint the buckets or cover them so sunlight does not destroy them.
Make the holes small. Five gallon buckets should run out of water in 30 minutes to one hour. The hole will eventually become plugged so you must clean it periodically. Use clean water a clean bucket and make sure you put a lid on top.
Place the buckets on top of the soil or slightly buried. You don’t want to bury the buckets totally in the soil if the water is emptying from the bucket at the bottom. Most of the roots that take up water will be within the top 12 to 18 inches of the soil. If the bucket empties beneath this zone, the water will be released deep and not water the roots very well.
In urban desert landscapes, trees should develop two types of roots; roots that anchor the plant and keep it from blowing over and roots that take up water and nutrients quickly.
If trees planted in the desert are irrigated deeply, they will develop deep roots which will help anchor the plant in the soil. If they are not watered deeply but only receive shallow irrigations, they will not develop these deep roots.
You can also help the tree get additional water by planting other shrubs under its canopy and overwatering them slightly to provide additional water for the tree. Surface mulch helps conserve water and encourages deeper rooting, particularly wood mulch.