Low Maintenance Pecan Irrigation (Part 2): A Detailed Look at how we Water Our Pecan Trees

How to irrigate pecan trees


In looking at how Silas is watering his pecan trees at the Bag-A-Nut test orchard, he likes to keep it simple. You’ll need a few supplies and some time, but you can make your own irrigation system, saving money and avoiding a lot of extra work.



The DIY Method

Silas’ main trunk line and circuits are schedule 40 PVC and at each tree is a ¼” vinyl tube that attaches to the circuits. The vinyl tube is left open and when the water is turned on it allows a free flow to flood the area around the tree. As the tree begins to mature and the roots cover a larger area, you can use a T at the end of the tube extending in both directions to cover more of the roots. Over the years, as the trees continue to grow, you can just keep splitting the tube and go as large as the tree’s roots need.


Why Keep it Simple?

There are many things you can attach on the end of your tubes, like drip emitters, micro jets, or extending a soaker hose off the end. Silas shares that even though those accessories are great, he knows it will take a lot of time and effort to clean out the filter and he must continuously check on things. Eventually, everything gets clogged and only half the trees get watered. If you have a high-density orchard, you can end up with hundreds of feet of soaker hose or hundreds of those little drip emitters. It becomes a mess when you think about trying to mow, weed eat, and harvest around all of it. One option would be to bury everything to keep it out of your way, but that opens a whole can of worms when it comes to maintenance. Silas says it’s not worth the hassle.

His go to method is to leave the tube open and bury it, letting the end stick out near the tree a couple of inches or so. It’s easy to mow, weed eat, and harvest around and if you chop the end off, it will still work. If there is a clog, you’ll notice right away because the area isn’t being flooded. Silas says he rarely has to do this, but he can use his portable air compressor and blow air into the tube a few times just to put pressure back into the system.


Putting it All Together

Once you’ve bought your ¼” vinyl tube, get your set of drill bits and get a pipe to drill some test holes. There may be variations in the outer diameter depending on the manufacturer of the drill bit, so this will help you determine what you should use. A 9/32nd” ended up working well. Next, cut a sharp end or taper on the end of the vinyl tube and push the end inside the drill hole. You want it just snug enough that you can barely push the tubing in.

At each tree at the test orchard, there is a riser coming up that plugs into the horizonal pipe which makes up the main lines. The horizonal lines are buried 18 inches into the ground and come up about a foot with the riser, leaving another 6 inches until getting to the surface. With each one of the risers, drill a hole at about 3 or 4 inches to perfectly fit with the ¼” vinyl tube. After the tubing is pushed in 4 or 5 inches, wrap electrical or duct tape around where the tube and drill holes meet. Be careful not to kink it by leaving it arched up a bit to guarantee the flow can come out smoothly. Leave plenty of room on the end for your cap to be glued on. Then glue the bottom of the riser to the trunk line.

There are a lot of cool fittings that can be glued to the end of your PVC like a bar at the top, so you can easily connect the tubing on and off the main line, but the above method is cheaper. You may find using PVC pipe and electrical tape isn’t the best plumbing joint because you may get a few drips, but it will be out in the orchard watering your trees, not under a cabinet or in the wall of your house.


More Tips

You want to keep this whole assembly away from the trees’ roots, especially if it’s a new planting. You don’t want it right up against a young tree because as the roots develop, they may put pressure on the set up and cause it to burst. Set it up at least 10 feet away and run the tube to the tree. Usually, the vinyl tubes run about 15 feet or so. Keep in mind, all this is six inches below the surface.

Silas recommends marking the riser caps by burying a piece of treated lumber, stone, or paver flush with the surface to keep everything neat. The grass will often grow over these markers, and you won’t be able to tell where they are, but if you ever have to get back in and rerun the vinyl tube, or you just want to check on your system, you can poke around with a shovel and they’re easy to find.

That’s all there is to it! It’s simple to make and maintain. If you are about to tackle your own irrigation system, make sure to educate yourself. If just the mention of pumps, solenoids, and pressure regulators makes your head spin, you’ll need to find someone to help you or watch a lot of YouTube videos to help you learn!

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