What do you recommend for orchard irrigation?

Getting tired of dragging a garden hose around, so what type of drip/microsprinklers should I use to water my fruit trees based on your experience? Examples and links to specific products would be helpful. Eventually my home orchard will have about 18-20 trees, mostly apple trees on semi-dwarf rootstock, plus a few stone fruits and pears. Some trees are already established, I’d say around 10-12 years old, and others are newly planted. So flexibility is important as I have a range of water requirements and would like to be able to make simple adjustments to the system as the smaller trees grow.

Another important consideration to me is low maintenance. My family has another property where I’d like to have a larger orchard in the future, but the location is far enough away that I wouldn’t be able to check on it as often as I’d like, and wouldn’t want to spend what little time I have there constantly checking things and fiddling with clogged heads or settings being out of whack. So I’m sort of thinking of my home system being a sort of testing ground for an eventual larger planting that would have multiple zones.

It seems like drip emitters or small sprayers/spitters would be good for the young trees. I have also seen people coil emitter tubing around their trees, but it seems like this setup would be harder to measure and control the amount of water coming through, or easily expand as the tree grows. I’d also be worried about the holes clogging or running over exposed tubing with my mower. I’ve heard micro sprinklers are good for more mature trees, so I’m looking for recommendations on good ones. The only concern I have with them is if you install a single sprinkler near the base of each tree, wouldn’t they spray the trunk quite a bit? Wouldn’t that attract pests and disease? Would a trunk guard or some kind of tree trunk coating offer protection, or is that unnecessary?

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We average 45 inches of rainfall a year, so I’m not of any help on this one. But, B118 or MM106 or M111 are less likely to be troubled by drought once established. Good roots that go deep require less rain/irrigation.


I installed some rain bird 0-3 GPH Microbubbler full pattern around mine. I made a 6’ section of 1/2 inch pipe off a larger pipe that I use spikes to hold in place around the base. I will adjust this pipe out after the root system expands.
These bubblers can be adjusted for the size of the tree and if clogged you unscrew the top to clear. I like the fact I can run the water and check for flow and then schedule it for a couple times a week. After about 3 to 4 years I do not expect to need them anymore since my trees should have well developed root systems and our dry season is usually after harvest.

I use Nelson R10 sprinklers, they are designed for orchards.

Thanks, I have used similar products in the garden, will try those out on my smaller trees.

Looks like a nice sprinkler, seems like you can water several trees per sprinkler with such a wide spray pattern. After looking at their site, I think the R5 would also be a good option for me.

Did you ever decide on something? It’s hard to find any customer testimonials about the Nelson micro sprinklers. I’m leaning toward Nelson S7 hanging on a trellis. I really don’t think I could get certified organic but that’s pretty much my management style and it seems like the best way to keep the irrigation away from the mower and rodents.

No, what sort of put me off about the Nelson sprinklers is that you seem to have to buy them through a dealer and can’t just order a couple to test them. Maybe they’d let me try a few, but just never got around to contacting them. Plus we ended up getting a new dog, and she’s chewed through so many existing drip lines and emitters I’m wary of installing any more out there right now.

I do have the option for flood irrigation, which we were able to only use about once a month the last couple years due to drought, but it seems to be enough to keep my larger trees happy with only a little more supplemental water with a hose. So I just have to water the smaller younger trees more regularly.

Agreed on the challenge of trying to buy their products. I think I even registered for their free samples on their website but never did get anything. Something is Always challenging. Hope your trees bear well! At my last place I put in a hundred hybrid willow with drip emmitters and over the winter vermin fed on the willow and supplemented with plastic emitter heads. Not sure what fun my future holds?

I’ve used these 1/4” micro sprinklers for 14 years in northern Utah - hot, dry and little rain in summer. Two per tree on either side connected to the 1/2" risers with a spaghetti manifold on top (retrofitted the in ground sprinkler system). They work but are not maintenance free. In spring I have a few that are clogged or the tops came off or the tubing is broken. I then recheck them in mid summer for carbonate clogging - just twist the top to break up the precipitate. Every 5-10 years, one of the manifolds breaks or clogs and has to be replaced.

The university extension person was surprised that they provided enough water and that they weren’t causing the roots to not spread out properly since the spray pattern is only a foot wide but I used them with every kind of fruit and we have decently strong winds here with no staking and I get hundreds of huge fruit per tree that seem particularly sweet. Maybe I’m underwatering and the sugars are higher but it seems to work.


If and when I retrofit, I would go to two 1/2" bubblers on either side. They are larger and less finicky with the hard water. Not as easy to design and install though.


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