KENTUCKY CHRISTMAS TREE PRODUCTION WORKBOOK:
Bonnie L. Appleton; Deborah B. Hill
Adequate water can be a limiting factor
in any plant's growth. While it is impractical to design all Christmas
tree plantings so that the trees can receive supplemental irrigation, the
possibilities for providing water should be considered. With two major
droughts occurring in the past decade and threats of global warming looming
on the horizon, the benefits of an irrigation system may outweigh the costs.
Christmas trees can be watered in three
•water wagon, tank or truck
•movable overhead irrigation equipment
•trickle or drip irrigation
Each of these methods has advantages
and disadvantages that should be considered.
Use of a water wagon, tank or truck
may require purchasing equipment or a lease or rental agreement. You will
need labor to drive the equipment and to do the watering. Leasing or renting
equipment can be advantageous because no investment is necessary in years
with adequate rainfall. Spot watering is also advantageous in that water
is only applied where and as it is needed.
If you already own movable overhead
irrigation equipment, watering Christmas trees can be an additional way
to utilize the equipment. With movable equipment, you do need labor to
move the system from field to field. Overhead irrigation wastes great quantities
of water through evaporation, and since trees and vegetative cover are
watered non-selectively, you may need to mow the ground cover more frequently.
If you do not already have the equipment, this method is not recommended.
Trickle or drip irrigation requires
considerable financial investment initially in lines, filters, meters,
emitters and such, but the system can be made portable so that it can be
moved from year to year. Because it is easily automated, labor is needed
more to install the system than to operate it. Trickle irrigation also
can be a way to apply fertilizer, but water quality must be maintained
at a high level of clarity or the emitters will clog.
When you decide whether irrigation
is desirable or practical, consider your water source. City water may be
readily available but may be expensive. Pond, well or river water may be
available with no direct cost, but the delivery system may require a higher
quality or larger quantities than can be consistently supplied. Distance
from the water source to the trees is also an important consideration for
both efficiency and cost.
Water will be most critical when the
trees are young or when trees of any age are under drought conditions.
Your ability to irrigate may accelerate growth, may prevent a decrease
in growth rate during dry seasons, or may outright save trees. While it
will be an additional expense, it may readily pay for itself in growth
rate, tree quality and tree survival.
Drip Irrigation Layout