[NAFEX] the Bees(Earthworms), and the spring in my orchard

Erdman, James ErdmanJ at uwstout.edu
Fri May 25 08:57:58 EDT 2007

I'm in western Wisconsin, an hour east of St Paul, MN.  We have been doing some work around our yard, specifically building a retaining wall near one of our vegetable gardens (that is gradually becoming my tree/berry nursery), and it involves digging a few feet into our heavy clay soil.  All the earthworms that we have seen have been in small knotted clumps, and the soil is bone dry once you get under the surface a few inches.  Then, in the last 2 days we have gotten about 2 1/2 inches (2.5) of rain, so it will be interesting to see what this has done to the soil moisture.
Regarding bees, so far this spring I have seen exactly 2 (two) honeybees, both on dandelions.  I saw none at all on fruit tree blossoms, but did see numerous smaller varieties of bees that I didn't identify, and I do have what appears to be good fruit set on apples, pears, apricots, plums, etc., although my little peach tree that had a single blossom didn't set fruit.  We did have almost a week of 18 to 20 degree low  temps in April when some trees were just starting to show a few buds opening, so I was very surprised to see all the trees blossom and set fruit.  Now there is just the rest of the summer to make it through.
Most of my apple and pear bench grafts that looked so good last fall didn't make it through the winter, but I did graft more this spring, including trying pears on amelanchier (serviceberry) rootstock, having been inspired by David Sliwa's orchard workshop last summer.
I rented a chipper a few weeks ago and my sons and I spent a long day chipping up lots of brush, branches, and limbs, and ended up with probably about 12 to 15 cubic yards of wood chips, and cleared up a lot of mess.  I used a lot of the chips to mulch berries and fruit trees.  I have been trying to mulch more and mow less often.  I also got a used Troy Bilt sickle bar mower to replace my ailing Gravely, so that I can mow more reliably in the orchard.
Jim Erdman, in Menomonie, WI
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