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Stories from the valley

Planning months ago for a lot of rain is a good thing

Contributed by Tim Johnson

It used to be that El Niños were hard to predict. Growing up, I’m not even sure we were calling it that. It was just a wet winter.

The benefit of advanced forecasting today is that you can plan for a wet winter – when it’s still dry. That is what we did here at Walker Vineyard back in September when we planted a fall cover crop and spread straw in the areas of the vineyard where we had run the tractor.

mist on a new orchard

The slopes that make for great wine grapes also shed water. It’s important to have native grass cover on those hills to keep the soil in place. When you have replaced vines as we’ve been doing, you need to do some extra work.

Last year we purchased a seed drill. A cool implement that plants grass seeds in perfect rows and at exactly the right depth. If you run the seed drill over the disturbed soil early in the fall the erosion control cover crop (grass and some legumes) will start to grow with the first rains.

some farm machinery

We also spread some straw to help until the cover crop gets well established. You can see both the straw and the cover crop in these pictures

All these practices should help keep the soil where we want it – in the vineyard.