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Stories from the valley

Switching from drought to flood preparation

Contributed by Tim Johnson

It hasn’t even started raining yet and Walker Vineyard is already getting ready for the wet winter ahead.

After the forth year of drought, early preparation for the rain may seem like overly high optimism. Instead, paying close attention to management practices protect water quality.

Over the last few years we’ve been re-planting portions of the vineyard. As part of that process, we disc the field to remove the weeds that compete with the young vines. Bare soil, however, will wash from the hillside in heavy rains if left unprotected.

The solution is a combination of planting an erosion control mix of grasses that germinate quickly in the fall and cover the soil surface. The roots hold the soil in place and the stems and leaves keep the rain from to vigorously impacting the soil. We planted our erosion control cover crop on October 3.

ploughed vineyard field

Last week we added another practice – covering the seed and bare soil with straw to protect it against erosion until the grass can really start to grow.

Two days and 15 bales of straw later, the hillside looked like this.


Finally, we added a third practice and that was to plant a vegetative strip at the bottom of the slope. When the grass grows here, they will catch any small runoff that might otherwise escape.

ploughed vineyard field

Combined, these steps will make sure that the soil stays in place to grow some of the great Zinfandel for which the Sierra Foothills is known.