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Stories from the valley

It’s all about the weeds – native cover crop actually!

Contributed by Tim Johnson

Often times, things are all about perspective. That’s certainly the case in our vineyard in spring! To some, the unkempt vineyard is full of weeds. To us, it’s a thriving native grass cover crop.

For the last four years, we’ve been working to establish a cover crop in the new vineyard. The land salvaged from an ancient and dying walnut orchard was full of weeds. When we replanted, we wanted to re-establish the native grasses as a cover crop between the vine rows.

After two reseedings, it looks like we’re making progress. The fescue and brome we planted are establishing well. In addition, orchard grass is filling in. Combined with two types of clover, these plants will do a lot for us year–round.

First, they will compete with weeds we don’t want in the vineyard. The grasses and clover will also protect against winter soil erosion and keep the fertilizer and mildew sprays out of the local creeks. They also provide important benefits to the soils, adding nutrients and in a year like this help dry up all of the extra rain fall.

It’s great to see the lupine coming back as well. The vibrant green of the cover crop and the one black walnut from the original orchard a perfect foil for their purple-blue flowers.

As you can see from the perspective of Candy the vineyard dog, it’s all getting pretty tall this year. We’ll let the cover crop mature to the point where the seed heads are ripe and then mow it to about four inches high. This way, we’re ensured that the grasses and clover will come back year after year.

From the county road, it may look a bit like a wild, vineyard jungle. A closer look, however, you see we’re working with the native plants and grasses to improve the soils and protect the environment.