October 28, 2011



Now that we’re done receiving grapes, we are also turning our attention towards dealing with the vineyards. During this brief period between the end of harvest and the beginning of the winter rainy season, we like to get our cover crops planted for next spring.

A cover crop is what you call the plants that are grown in the rows between the vines (the space where people walk or tractors run). In non-organic farming, the row is frequently denuded of plants entirely by the application of chemical herbicides. This is done to prevent the growth of weeds that might damage the vines or make vineyard work more difficult.

Since we farm organically, we take a different approach. Placing cover crops in the rows is an excellent way to do several beneficial things. For one, you can generally control weeds in the vineyard by planting cover crops that will compete with the weeds for space, water and light without damaging the grapevines or impeding vineyard work.

For another, you can control grapevine pests by planting cover crops that will attract insects which prey on the pests and keep their populations in check.

The third major reason we plant cover crops is to maintain soil quality. Remember that, as practitioners of organic farming, we are not allowed to apply synthetic fertilizer to our vineyards. Every year nutrients are removed from the soil by the vines in order to produce the grapes, so by seeding cover crops that replenish those nutrients, we maintain our soil quality year after year without needing fertilizer.

The first step in planting a cover crop is to till, or ‘disc’, the soil in the rows so that the seeds can be worked in. This is the part of the process that we started today.

This process is called discing because of the large, disc-shaped blades that are attached to the rear of the tractor. This process leaves the soil very loose and a little difficult to walk on, so we like to get it done as early as we can so that the soil will compact back down a little by the time we need to prune the vines in the winter.

In a few days we’ll be done with discing, and we can start sowing our cover crop seeds. Be sure to check back next week to find out what we are using and why!

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.


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