Let’s say you just planted an avocado tree from a five-gallon container, the typical size available at nurseries. How should you water this tree?
First, immediately after planting you should water lavishly, making sure that all of the container soil is wet and also making sure that the surrounding native soil is also wet to a couple feet away from the tree and a couple feet deep. One way you can do this is by leaving a basin around the tree that you can fill with water over and over, as seen in the photo above. You’re likely going to need to apply about 10 gallons to do this, or even more if the soil is very dry.
Why water the container soil? Because that’s where the tree’s roots are. Why water the surrounding soil when the tree’s roots are only in the container soil? Because if the surrounding native soil is dry, it will literally suck water from the container soil, leaving the tree’s roots thirsty.
Materials and products
It doesn’t much matter what materials or products you use to water the tree, from that first watering through the entire first year. (Which watering method is best in the long run? Probably sprinklers, not drip. See why on page 19 of this avocado-growing handbook.) Watering by hand with a can or a hose is fine, watering by drip emitters can work fine as long as the emitters are close to the trunk and directly on top of the container soil, and a sprinkler works great too.
Personally, I prefer using sprayers, or sprinklers with a sprayer insert, on new avocado trees. I’ve used a sprayer made by DIG, and I’ve used a little sprinkler made by Philmac, shown in it’s sprayer mode in the photo below as well as at the top of this page.
But if I had to recommend one, I’d go with this micro sprinkler made by DIG:
The reason I’d recommend it is because it’s both widely available and it’s a great product. It’s sold at Home Depot as well as many other stores, both online and physical. It costs around $3.
And why is it a great product? Similar to the Philmac sprinkler, DIG’s micro sprinkler can be the first and last watering device that you buy and install for the life of your avocado tree. This is because it comes with a 90-degree sprayer insert that works perfectly on a newly planted tree, as shown in the photo above, in addition to a spinner insert that will apply water in a wide diameter (up to 25 feet), so it can be used on big, mature trees too.
I use a sprayer on new trees, and then switch to a rotating sprinkler (spinner) once a tree’s canopy is more than about four feet in diameter, which tends to be after a year or two in the ground. The easiest way to do this is to use something like Philmac’s sprinkler or DIG’s micro sprinkler, which can be used in sprayer and sprinkler modes.
One modification I make is that I always insert a little shut-off valve on the tubing so that I can adjust the volume on the sprayer, and later on the sprinkler. (Note the shut-off valve on the Philmac sprinkler tubing in the photo above.)
How often and how much
Be sure that you’re watering the container soil consistently while also watering the surrounding native soil occasionally. This might mean that you put automated irrigation on the container soil and then hand-water the surrounding native soil every couple weeks.
How often is “consistently”? And how much should you water each time? I’ll try to be as specific as possible.
For a tree planted in spring or early fall:
- Week 1- water every other day, 2 gallons each time
- Week 2- water every three days, 3 gallons each time
- Weeks 3/4- water every four days, 4 gallons each time
For a tree planted in summer:
- Week 1- water every day, 1 gallon each time
- Week 2- water every other day, 2 gallons each time
- Weeks 3/4- water every three days, 4 gallons each time
For a tree planted in late fall or winter:
- Week 1- water every three days, 2 gallons each time
- Week 2- water every four days, 2 gallons each time
- Weeks 3/4- water every five days, 3 gallons each time
In summary, you’ll water frequently at first and then less often as time goes on. This is because the tree will eventually grow its roots into the surrounding native soil and have more stamina because of the larger root system.
After the first month — no matter which season — your regular waterings should no longer only be over the container soil but also over the surrounding native soil. Why? Because the tree will have started extending its roots there after about a month from planting.
Remember that your baby avocado tree uses water in part based on the weather conditions. If there’s an extreme heat wave soon after planting, you may have to water every day. Likewise, if there are storms every week during winter, you’ll not need to water at all. But there could also be warm, dry Santa Anas in winter which make your new avocado tree want water every few days despite the winter season.
After the tree’s first full winter it can be considered established, no longer new, meaning it has extended its roots into the native soil and therefore your watering will more closely approximate the schedule it needs for the rest of its life.
In general, established avocado trees like to be watered every five to ten days, but that’s another topic: See this resource from Gary Bender for how to water an established avocado tree. Look at page 2 and also at the table at the end on page 7.
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