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Winter orchard watering

Posted by steve333 z5 CO Mountains (My Page) on
Wed, Feb 6, 13 at 20:35

Our typical rainfall is a bit too low for most fruit trees (apples, pears, plums and cherries), so I supplement with irrigation. I try to keep the trees well watered through the fall, until the ground freezes.

I also will water mid to late winter whenever there is a warm spell of 4 or more days and the surface is no longer frozen over. I have been doing just that for the last week or so, as we had a nice warming and the ground surface was thawed.

However, it occurred to me that perhaps this was a bad idea, as the ground remains frozen 6" or so down. The water all soaks into the ground within 10 mins or so after the watering stops, so there are no puddles of ice forming around the trees. But still I am concerned if water at this time might do more harm than good.

What do folks think?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Winter orchard watering

  • Posted by fruitnut z7b-8a,4500ft SW TX (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 6, 13 at 20:47

If you go into winter with moist soil throughout the root zone, say 4-5ft deep, then you shouldn't need to water until after fruit set in spring. I've read that commercial growers typically over water in spring. At the least wait until things green up.

RE: Winter orchard watering

Getting to moist soil 4-5' down would have been nice, but hard to do with last year's rainfall. The drought cut into available irrigation water as well. There was enough water to keep the trees growing moderately well, but not much more.

We've had < 0.5" of precip since the ground froze last fall. With our wind and sun it makes for mostly dry soil conditions now, at least at the surface. Not entirely dry as there is still enough water to freeze the soil solid when it's cold. But when it thaws, the soil appears to be bone dry.

I have always taken the approach that if weather permits putting some additional moisture on the trees in the winter, I should take advantage of it. Just wondering if I might be doing more harm than good.

RE: Winter orchard watering

  • Posted by fruitnut z7b-8a,4500ft SW TX (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 8, 13 at 10:58


You won't likely harm the trees if your soil drains well at least not this time of year. It would be after leafing out that too wet might take a toll on the trees. In your climate nothing much should be using water this time of year. So if the soil is wet at depth excess water is running back to the water table and carrying some of your soils nutrients with it.

There is potential danger from the soil being too dry during extreme cold. So all these factors have to be balanced out. Good luck!!

RE: Winter orchard watering

You are more on top of it than I am. I have not had the enthusiasm to get out there. I bought a 5-speed 36" Craftsman snowblower last July for $85.00; have only used a broom for the snow so far this year. I hope I don't regret my laziness.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fall and Winter Watering

RE: Winter orchard watering


I started winter watering a few years ago, and it seemed to improve the trees in the spring. But it has not been enough years to draw conclusions. I figured that it may only serve as an alternate water source for the wind to evaporate, rather than drawing on lower soil moisture.

FWIW, coop extension in my area recommends winter watering for trees and shrubs. Seems like as long as I don't create an ice pond around the trees, it should not do any harm.

RE: Winter orchard watering

How interesting! I would have thought zone 5 & the mountains would have quite a bit of snow
& the ground cold enough if not frozen with minimal root activity.
My mountains are so much older & smaller, a much warmer climate
but I would never even think to water till trees break dormancy.
I too have seen better results with spring growth when supplementing fall water
milehighgirl thanx for the giggle

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