A couple of teaser storms in January raised our hopes, but as the trees awakened from dormancy in early February there was no rainfall in sight. So I mowed down most of the cover crop to stop it from consuming soil moisture, and began doling out meager amounts of water again, this time to benefit the trees.
So now we continue into Spring with our usual conflict of interest: we want lots of rainfall to help the trees through the coming dry summer and to recharge our aquifer, but apricots, especially, are really prone to fungal diseases in wet weather so a dry spring makes for clean fruit. With some luck we will receive the right balance of help and harm from mother nature.
Following pruning, one of winter's chores is chipping up all the orchard brush and making compost. Like everyone else I used to burn orchard prunings every spring. But after awakening to the huge value of compost as a soil additive, I can't stand to see this resource go to waste. One only has to walk into an undisturbed forest, scrape away the top two inches of rotting leaves and bark, scoop up a handful of soil and take a sniff to understand where soil nutrients come from. It will smell moist, earthy, sweet and fragrant, teeming with fungus and microbes cycling nutrients back into the soil. In contrast, grab a handful of dirt from a finely cultivated agricultural field and you get finely powdered minerals smelling of dust. One is soil, the other is just dirt. One feeds the plants, the other just keeps the plants from tipping over in the wind. Organic matter is the difference. So any crop waste we can return to the soil is a net gain in fertility.