The apple is among the most popular fruits globally. Apple trees offer ample shade, produce delicious fruits, and increase your property’s aesthetic appeal with their stunning flowers. However, implementing the best watering techniques is crucial to the tree’s health and growth — and improper watering might cause stunted development or the spread of disease.
Apple tree watering frequency depends on rainfall, soil type, and the species. Established apple trees typically require about an inch of water each week, while younger trees thrive on two inches of water weekly. Water apple trees deeply and keep the soil moist but not soggy to prevent overwatering.
Apple trees aren’t only for those with acres and acres of land. If you have limited yard space, you can grow a healthy harvest by planting a hedge of dwarf apple trees or espalier apple trees. But no matter the size of your property, watering will be part of the job, so let’s take a closer look at how to do it properly.
How Often Do You Need to Water Apple Trees?
Deep watering sessions each week is ideal for apple trees. Be sure to stick to a regular watering schedule to promote plant growth and health. If rainfall provides the required water amount for the week, they don’t supplement with extra water.
Young apple trees generally need two inches of water per week for healthy root development. As the tree grows, the water requirements reduce to one inch per week.
Avoid watering your apple trees daily. Small daily doses of water won’t soak the root area to the depth needed for ample feeding. On the other hand, excess watering on a daily basis can drown and kill apple trees.
The exact amount of water your trees need varies based on size, climate, and planting material. Mature apple trees with a 14-foot canopy require approximately 30 gallons of water.
Trees planted in sandy soil need more water than in loamy or clay soil. Make sure to increase the watering frequency in the sweltering summer months.
Best Watering Practices
Drip irrigation systems (on Amazon) and soaker hoses (also on Amazon) are the best way to water your apple trees. Coil a soaker hose, ensuring even watering from the tree’s base to beyond the branch canopy spread.
Then run the soaker hose for 15 minutes to deliver 1 inch of water to mature plants, or for 30 minutes to supply 2 inches of water to a young apple tree. Once it develops fruit, your tree is no longer considered young, so you can reduce watering frequency.
Water apple trees out past the dripline because the roots out there absorb most of the nutrients. Watering beyond the root system also enables your apple tree to extend even more and support your apple tree. Soak the ground to a depth of 6-8 inches to meet the trees’ water needs.
How to Tell if Your Apple Tree Needs Water
Apple trees thrive in moist soil, and dry soil can lead to dehydration or death. Soil moisture levels can help you determine if your plant needs water, so check them before each watering session.
An easy way to check moisture levels is by using a digital soil moisture meter (on Amazon). If the soil feels dry to touch or the moisture meter reads “dry,” then it’s time to water the apple tree. Delay watering when the soil around the root zone is moist.
Common signs of under-watered apple trees include:
- Brown spots around the leaf edges
- Yellow leaves
- Retarded growth of new leaves
- Early leaf dropping
- Wilting or curling leaves
- Premature fruit drop or watering
If you notice any of the signs above, provide ample water to save the apple tree before the lack of water causes irreversible damage.
How Do You Know if Your Apple Tree Is Overwatered?
Excess moisture in waterlogged soils prevents the absorption of oxygen and nutrients, which can cause disease and death. Overwatering also washes the most crucial nutrients out of the soil. If the apple tree roots are exposed to excess wetness, the roots may rot and die.
Watering your apple trees in cold and rainy weather can lead to overwatering. Always check the weather forecast before watering and skip that session if it will rain more than an inch in the same week. Cold water may also reduce evaporation, so confirm soil moisture before watering in cold seasons.
Water stress is as damaging as heat or drought stress. Signs of an overwatered plant include:
- Yellowing leaves
- Stunted leaf growth
- Reduced fruit yield
- Premature ripening
- Root infections such as root rot
- Crown rot
Some apple tree species have resistant rootstocks that can tolerate flooding and drought stress.
Watering is essential for a bountiful fruit harvest. Since each fruit contains 86% water, watering your tree correctly is critical to its health. Overwatering or under-watering can induce stress, limiting flowering and fruiting.
Your apple tree will require plenty of water after planting. Because the roots haven’t had time to expand and reach deeper into the soil, they will rely on you for most of their watering needs. However, rainfall should meet most water needs after the roots have grown.