Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mulch Wide, Water Deep ... Keeping your Home Orchard Healthy.

When we planted our first peach tree, we had no idea that just one tree could provide us with so much bounty and beauty. If you want to turn your property into a edible garden, fruit trees are an excellent way to start.
 Peach trees grow unbelievably fast and produce an amazing amount of fruit. They deserve and require more pruning and nurturing than the other fruit in our orchard. During the late summer months, before the busy fall planting time, we spend some of our evening hours mulching around the root zone of our fruit trees. Here are some before and after photos of the process.  
Here's a good photo showing how the top soil is dry and needs to be worked. But, beneath it, there is rich, dark soil from previous years of layering the mulch.
Mulching and watering are especially important for the tree's first year. The root system or root ball is still shallow and will dry out quickly in our hot summer heat. Our desert soil can easily turn to clay, preventing water from absorbing evenly. As the tree matures, and with proper watering, the roots will eventually spread wide and deep.  Mulching aids with watering, it helps retain moisture and keeps the weeds  under control. We add some of our coarsely decayed compost around the base of the young tree, being careful not to till too deeply and disturb the shallow roots. This compost eventually breaks down, adding organic matter to the soil, feeding the tree. We are lucky to have flood irrigation in our neighborhood, this means every two weeks our trees are flooded with at least twelve inches of water. That's a good, deep watering that I am sure our trees love and that I am immensely thankful for!

This Desert Gold Peach is next in line for it's organic mulch treatment!

Love this illustration showing the amazing root system of a tree!

This tree is mulched out to the drip line of the tree, if possible extend it even wider.
Organic compost (chicken poop, coffee grounds, leaves, grass clippings, and other organic matter).

 As the tree grows, gradually extend the well and the mulch beyond the canopy of the tree so the water reaches the feeder roots. This means, as the trees grows you should move your watering components( drip system or hose) outward away from the trunk of the tree. With each watering, the water should reach a depth of at least 3 feet. Deep watering also washes the harmful salts below the root zone.
 We use a water probe to check our depth. The probe will move through the soil until it gets the dry, hard soil and then it will stop.
Don't drown your trees either, make sure you let the soil dry out  between watering.

Hubby and I are good at multi-tasking. We mulch, turn and water and I almost always have  loppers in my hands for unruly branches! Summer pruning is an endless task!

Our demonstration tree is a 1st year Pink Lady apple. Looking at the photos, we probably need to extend our well out another 12 to 14 inches very soon. 
Take a look at the excellent sites below, they show and tell more detailed information about the root system of a tree. It's nice to know what's going on below the surface! I consider this information, essential knowledge for the home orchardist!

Stop by An Oregon Cottage, we love what they have to say!


Travel With Lulu said...

So exciting to add a new family member to the garden :) Love that root illustration too. New to your blog & loving it XOLaura

Joanne said...

Thanks for all the info! My Father-in-law has peach and fig trees in his back yard, but the squirrels are always the ones to take the best fruits! do you have a problem with squirrels?
Blessings, Joanne

Bec said...

thanks for sharing some great info, Im new too, but will enjoy following

Unknown said...

Thanks for the info and the grand pictures. woulkd this go for nectreans too? Answer on my blog and yours and I will try to read all of them:)!

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

That was a great post. I wish I had room for a fruit tree in our little space.

JessicaP said...

Wow - great info. My trees will benefit from it this week!