I’m planning a small-scale orchard (100-200 trees for now) in a high density pattern, with site preparation this season and planting due to start this coming spring. For a variety of reasons, I’ve settled on bud 9 rootstock as the primary choice, and I may diversify later once everything is established.
My main question is: does anyone have any experience with the water needs of bud 9? I plan to set up a drip irrigation line about 1-2 feet off the ground, and I’ll be using adjustable emitters to compensate for the close end of the lines being higher pressure than the far ends. My source will be a local pond, running through what is best described as a small aqueduct used to supply an off-grid home. I’ve yet to determine the water pressure in this system, but it’s not a weak flow by any means at the house, and the orchard is much closer to the source.
If anyone has any tips for all of this, even outside of irrigation, feel free to let me know, this is of course all new to me. I’m planning on growing honeycrisp, royal gala, and a local heritage variety, for reference.
We irrigate a bunch of high density B9 trees with drip irrigation in a warm zone 7B climate.
We have 1 GPH pressure compensating emitters at each tree plugged into 1/2 inch poly hose laying on the ground. Some folks with vole problems attach the poly hose to the lower wire to prevent the damage. Looks like 3 or 4 GPM will be required for 200 trees but you could break that into 2 zones and water half of the trees at a time.
With pond water you will need excellent filtration and a pressure reducing valve to match the emitters, normally about 15-20 PSI. I use well water so I get by with a basic $20 screen filter for filtration. With pond water good filtration is important to prevent the emitters from clogging
Not all emitters have the pressure compensation built in which is especially important with significant changes in elevation or long rows to insure each tree gets the same amount of water. Drip tape is cheaper than poly hose and individual emitters and it works with lower pressure but it waters the whole row and not just the trees but it only lasts a few years depending on the thickness. A common size uses about 2 GPM for 1000 feet. Could use a poly hose product with built in internal emitters but it’s more expensive.
We run the irrigation for about 10-12 hours when we do not get 1 inch of rain each week
Lots of good vendors for irrigation supplies
Berry Hill Irrigation in VA is one of them. They have sold drip irrigation supplies for 40 years or more.
Good luck on your new project
Thank you for that wealth of information and tips, I really appreciate the help.
I’m in Zone 5B, in eastern Canada, and while we get a good amount of rain for apples (a few that I have in my yard require zero irrigation), we get less rain in July and August, especially in recent years, and I’m thinking irrigation will be a must in a high density setting on B9.
One question of clarification: when you say 10-12 hours, that’s per day using the 1 GPH emitters you referenced right?
Also thanks for mentioning drip tape, I had no idea it was an option. With B9 seemingly requiring only 2 foot spacings between trees, and a likely start being 100 trees, I think it might be a good option, since I only need 300 feet or so. I also hadn’t considered filtration, as the pond water is exceptionally clear, but emitters likely don’t take much to clog.
I irrigate from a pond also. I use a Arkal / Netafilm disc filter and clean the filter discs weekly.
2 feet is pretty close so watering the entire row rather than each tree makes good sense.
May need to examine the optimum spacing for your area but I’m not sure where to look for the information. I read about some orchards planted at 2 feet in prefect apple growing areas of Washington but trees are expensive and a lower density will probably produce a faster payback and a better rate of return. A comprehensive study for NC pointed to an optimum density of around 600 trees/acre but I expect your area is very different
The 10-12 hours the length of the cycle running one a week
I have this Novamac on B9… planted in a half whisky barrel type container that I got from TSC.
It has a good mix of top soil and compost in there… and 3 inches of pine bark mulch on top.
I give it 4 gal of water each Friday… unless it rains good. It has been very happy and growing well so far.
The top was broken in shipping and it is branching out nicely above where I pruned off the break.
You may want to look at this tree spacing calculator to help with your planning. It’s for conditions in Michigan but I think the results would be reasonable for your area. The calculator takes into account rootstock and scion vigor, soil type, irrigation and management system. Two foot spacing for Bud 9 is pretty close unless you have sandy soil. I think three feet is more reasonable in most cases. Also Honeycrisp is a low vigor scion you probable want a higher vigor rootstock for Honeycrisp instead of Bud 9. Geneva 11 would be a better choice for Honeycrisp for example.
Will you be spraying? I have had 7 out of 9 trees die from borers. Bud 9 just can not bounce back from the attack and my short Canadian 4b (usda 3b) growing seasons. 100% must fence also if you have deer.
100% need filter for your water. Clear by eye is not satisfactory.
I have moved to bud118 (not high density) with so far better success but it is early still and time will tell.
Cold climates I believe you want at least semistandard for the vigor to produce fruit each year and bounce back from insects and disease. Not impressed with dwarf stocks in my zone. I believe I have read about Bud118 in higher density plantings, just need to be more agressive with pruning.