Deep Watering in a Drought, janky style

You may remember that I planted 6 fruit trees during the first year at our homestead. You may have also heard that California is in a drought. While I don’t water the old, ancient fruit trees that came with my property, my baby trees still require water. And since our rainy season is officially over, I’m back to watering my trees.

necterine blossoms

When it comes to watering fruit trees, particularly in a drought, the best way is to deep water. Deep watering means watering a greater quantity of water, less frequently, as compared to surface watering, which would be less water more often. With the deep watering method, the water percolates into the soil slowly and goes deeper, which is important for fruit trees so they develop strong deep roots, as opposed to lots of surface roots.

How much water a tree needs depends on its size. When we first put the trees in as bare root, it was advised to water 1.5-3 gallons, 3 times a week. After that, the general rule of thumb was to water 5 more gallons per year of growth, each week. That would put my trees as needing about 10-14 gallons a week this year. If you don’t know how old your trees are, you can follow the general guideline of approximately 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter, per week.

With six trees, that’s 60 gallons of water a week. That’s a lot of water. I want to make sure none of that is being wasted, and the tree is getting the most benefit from my watering sessions. Best case scenario would be to use drip, but we don’t have that together yet, and I’m still hose watering. When I planted the trees, I formed the soil into a basin, so the hose water wouldn’t just run down the mound. But after a year of mulching, a digging dogs, foraging from escaped chickens, and general mischievous cats, my basins have pretty much disappeared. I tried just watering with the sprayer at the end of my hose, but the soil couldn’t absorb the amount of water the trees needed, and a lot of it would just run down into the weeds. I knew there had to be a better way!

cat, tree, chickens
cats and chickens are rarely helpful

ENTER my new janky bucket watering system!!!

deep watering with buckets

I created my own system of deep watering that didn’t cost anything, and lets the water drip slowly into the soil, putting it right where the tree needs it. I gathered up 3 5-gallon buckets, and drilled small holes in the bottom. Then, I place these buckets around the drip line of the tree. I fill the buckets about 2/3 full, and they slowly drip out over the course of an hour or two. Then, the next morning, I move the buckets to the next tree and start the process over. By the end of the week, I start back over on the first tree.

drilling holes in the bottom of buckets for deep watering

deep watering with 5-gallon buckets

It takes about 4 gallons for hot water to reach our shower, so we’ve been diligently making sure to capture that water, plus any water used from washing produce, low-soap rinse water, spent pasta water and water left from steaming. By giving this water a 2nd life and watering the trees, I’ve been able to avoid filling up any of the buckets with the hose. Hauling buckets around is cumbersome and I’m guaranteed to somehow get wet, and I’ve got buckets and basins everywhere, making my house and yard look somewhat like a recycling pile. But we really can’t afford to just let water go down the drain, and having NO WATER AT ALL seems much more inconvenient that this current system poses. Perhaps my next project will be to somehow paint all the buckets so they match and look cute scattered around the house….

hauling buckets

Please share this post and spread the word so we can all save water! If you have a helpful water-saving tip, please let me know! I’m compiling a post for next week about gardening in the drought.


Gardening in a Drought: How to deep water fruit trees with 5-gallon buckets

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4 thoughts on “Deep Watering in a Drought, janky style

  1. Nice! Also, you are getting a workout in hauling buckets around. 😉 I’m going to get myself some buckets and look forward to future gardening posts.

  2. That is a very good idea. Thank you for sharing! We have had drought here too this summer, and I have been saving water from the shower and reusing as much as possible too.

  3. I’ve heard of taking your shower with buckets on the floor of the shower. Also, hand washing dishes depending on your dish washer. And mulch. So much mulch to make certain the water used doesn’t evaporate.

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