Fruit trees need water, and it’s your job to make sure they get enough, but not too much!

We can still remember how excited we felt when we got our 110,000L water tank. We installed it as part of the ‘Hub’ infrastructure we built for the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op. It was partly funded by an Agriculture Victoria’s Food Source grant.

We were lucky with rainfall and the tank filled quickly. It’s remained pretty much full ever since, despite being the main water source for Tess in her Sellar Farmhouse Creamery milk factory.

Why are we talking about this, when the tank’s old news, and we have plenty of water?

Because one of the principles we absolutely rely on is that diversity = resilience. In the case of water, it’s a good plan to have access to as many different sources of water as possible — and definitely more than one!

Hugh improving the irrigation system
Hugh improving the irrigation system

The best time to improve your fruit tree watering system

Autumn and winter are good times to be thinking about how to increase your water security and water capacity.

It’s also the most convenient time to make improvements to your irrigation system.

The pressure of summer watering is off, and you’ve finished with harvest. But right after the season, the logistics of your irrigation system are still fresh in your mind.

It’s easy to answer questions about:

  • How easy or hard your system was to run
  • Whether you had enough water to grow a full, healthy crop of fruit;
  • How much your water cost (if anything), and
  • How well your trees managed with the amount of water you gave them.

Potential sources of water

At our place, we can draw water from four different sources. The Coliban Water irrigation system, our dams, storage in the soil (ie rainfall), and tanks.

However, we know from our experience in the big drought that sometimes this isn’t enough. We’re always looking to add more resilience to the system.

Our large farm dam - which also gets used for recreation!
Our large farm dam – which also gets used for recreation!

But of course, your solutions to improving water security will probably be completely different.

They might include adding a tank, improving the efficiency of your irrigation system, improving the water-holding capacity of your soil, or installing a grey-water system.

Planning the best system for you

Water resilience is a topic we’re passionate about. We’ve written three different short courses, plus an ebook on the topic.

The climate is changing rapidly, and we all need to improve our food-growing resilience. It really is a topic none of us can avoid if we still want to be able to grow food in another 20, 30, or 50 years.

So if you’re planning to plant trees this year, or already have an established garden, autumn and winter are the times to review how your irrigation system performed over summer, or plan to put a new system in.

You need to be ready when (not if) the next drought (or flood) comes!

The big flood of 2011 breaking a dam wall
The big flood of 2011 breaking through a dam wall

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