Until now, I've just always watered my trees by laying a hose near the base of the trunk and setting a timer. Since it has hardly rained for the past nine months, I've had to water almost every week, a chore which can take as long as 3.5 hours. While I was incapacitated, I realized that I really needed to find a way to automate the watering of the fruit trees as much as possible. Not only to make things easier on Dr. Wife or others when I'm away, but also to free up more of my time to play with Boys #1 and #2 on the weekends.
I looked into purchasing a drip irrigation system, but you need pressure regulators, special drip hose, special tools, special emitters, etc, and it always added up to more money than I wanted to spend. Why couldn't I just run a garden hose to the trees, and drill little holes in the hose to put the water where I wanted it? I looked around on the internet to see if anyone else had done this, and found a publication by the Utah State University Cooperative Extension on how to make your own drip system from PVC, which was very similar to what I planned to do. Encouraged by what I saw, I decided to give it a shot.
The system is super simple. From the timer at the spigot, I ran a 100-ft garden hose along a line of seven fruit trees, and screwed a cap on the end. Once the hose was positioned, I drilled holes with a 1/16-inch drill bit into it next to each tree. A hole 1/16-inch in diameter is one 1/100th of the cross-sectional area of the 5/8-inch hose. As long as I didn't drill more than 100 holes, I would get back-pressure in the hose, and should get even water distribution along its length. I decided to drill 35 holes to start (5 at each tree).
Using my watch and a measuring cup, I measured the average output at each little hole, which turned out to be a little more than 3 gallons per hour. Five holes per tree means 15 gallons per hour per tree. Ideally I would like closer to 25. A garden hose on full blast can put out 300 gallons per hour at my house, so I think I can increase the output by drilling some more holes, as long as I don't drill too many. So far th seems to be working very well, and if it holds up, I'll rig up similar systems to irrigate all of my trees.