When you have a winter with little snow and no runoff followed by a prolonged summer drought, watering only helps the surface. This is especially a problem for trees where the roots may be a foot or more below the surface. I could see the lack-of-water stressed leaves on the young trees in our orchard. I remembered some watering spikes that I had seen in a Lee Valley catalogue a few years ago so I took another look at them. They were only 5 inches long but I wanted at least 12 inches. So I googled “watering spikes” which led me to these.
But I didn’t want to install a drip irrigation system. Neither did I want to water slowly with a hose. If I could combine the reservoir idea of Lee Valley with the deep spike of Rittenhouse, I might have something that would deliver large volumes of water down 14 inches.
The inside diameter of the spike was 1″ so I had to find a fitting that would fit that opening and also fit a 4 litre water bottle.
The barbed end didn’t quite fit the spike but the threaded end perfectly fitted the water bottle. A bit of filing with a wood rasp and the barb could be twisted snugly into the spike.
A bit of PVC glue and the fitting attached snugly to the bottle with no leaking.
I used a 1″ spade bit to put a hole in the top of the jug so that I could fill it with a hose.
It looked good but would it work? I drove the spike into the ground very easily despite it being rock hard because of the drought. I worked the fitting into the spike being careful not to stress the PVC glue joint. Then I filled it and saw that there was a bit of leaking at the glued joint. A heavier coating of glue took care of that problem.
I filled the jug and then I filled it again and again and again – ten times. By the time that the water was beginning to empty out of the jug more slowly, I had used 40 litres of water!
I knew that it was dry but I had no idea.
I had bought 4 spikes so I was able to set up a rotation whereby I fill each one after another. By the time that I had filled the fourth the first was empty.
But we have 10 times the number of trees than I had spikes. Over $500 so that each tree could have its own spike or moving the spikes from tree to tree and back again? Hmmmm, neither was a good option but the trees needed water. Then we got a break in temperatures which, while we didn’t get rain, decreased the stress. I was able to put off a decision.
I still haven’t solved the problem of our remaining fruit trees but I thinking that I could build watering spikes from PVC electrical conduit with a cap on one end, holes drilled along the length, fibreglass screen inside to keep the dirt out. Because it’s PVC, I should be able to find the ideal adaptor to fit the 4 litre jug. And I could use the spikes I have to drive a hole first.
And all fruit and nut trees that we plant from now on are likely to have a watering spike planted at the same time. And we’ll begin watering early in the year if we have light winter snow that lowers the water table. Before we’re under stress from a drought summer, we’ll have provided the trees with water at the roots which will reduce stress during a drought.
Hmmmm. If we can deliver water this way, what about nutrients? They’d probably respond well to a comfrey tea delivered directly to the roots in the spring.