The Soil in my Yard and "Orchard"
We have just moved into a new home. We have little to no grass and what grass we do have is crab grass. The soil is like sand and weeds are extreamly easy to remove from dry soil. It seems as if the last two yrs. the yard was only watered by rain or little irrigation water. What would I need to to to help the soil condition to promote grass growth and benefit our 8 fruit trees? We have yet to figure out what type of fruit trees they are. We are thinking a variety of apple, peach, plum and possibly apricot (not sure I spelled that right). By the way we have no clue what we are doing and have never had this situation before.
The place to start when you are building a soil is to do a good job of sampling & testing the soil. In your part of the world, we not only want to check for the basic nutrients (N, P, K, calcium, magnesium & organic matter), but also the salt content as seen in the information at the site. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/crops/00502.html
Also how to take a soil sample for testing. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/crops/00500.html
Other information sheets on soils are found by changing the number in the web address to 00501, 00502, 00503, etc.
Follow the recommendations of the soil test for amending the soils.
Other steps that will help the situation is building the organic matter, mulching under the drip-line of the fruit trees and conservative irrigation. I think you will get the best bang out of your buck with organic mulches. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07214.html.
Build the organic matter in the soil by the use of cover crop and green manure crops.Use a minimum of tillage to maintain some organic cover on the soil. Yes, it will look a bit messy. Winter annual cover crops, like cereal rye, may be the best help until you get a hang of the irrigation and/or get enough organic matter to make some change in the water holding capacity of the soil. See: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/gardennotes/244.html
The irrigation system that offers the most conservative use of water is trickle or drip irrigation. The second best is micro-sprinklers. Both are designed to water the root zone of the fruit tree and not much else. Maybe let the "grass" take care of itself, except use of cover crops, until you get a handle on managing the water for the fruit trees. see these resources:
I selected western and arid states that might fit you situation better than the information from the mid-west.
You might consider the xeriscape principles for managing your landscape. That means selecting plants and landscape features that minimize inputs like water and fertilizer. http://www.cmg.colostate.edu/pubs/WaterWise.html & http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/412.html
The local CSU Extension office has some folks that might help you with some of this. Especially providing a place to get your soil sample tested. The contact info is
1001 N. 2nd Street
Montrose, CO 81401-3731
Monday - Friday
8:00a.m. - 5:00p.m.
Phone: (970) 249-3935
Fax: (970) 249-7876