Regenerative agriculture: Growing produce at our wine farm
As regenerative farmers who foster biodiversity to promote a healthy ecosystem, we’re never growing just one thing. For example, our grapes grow in concert with a variety of cover crops that defend against erosion, promote soil health, provide bees with nectar and pollen, and feed some of our happy farm animals. Consequently there’s much more thriving around our Sonoma vineyards than premier grapes, especially when the sun is shining brightly and summer is underway.
Established in 2018, our Edible Garden is a one-acre plot on our Lyon Vineyard that’s vibrant with plants all year round. We created it to grow organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs, some of which are used in our Biodynamic preparations. But bees, butterflies, and birds find much to love in our garden, too, so no matter the season, our garden is alive with thriving flora and fauna.
A garden full of biodiversity
This time of the year, we’re busy across the whole farm. In the vineyards, our annual budbreak has given us some insight into what to expect from this year’s wine crop. In our Edible Garden, many of our spring plantings, like cucumbers, sweet peppers, tomatillos, peas, hot peppers, and kale, will soon be harvested. This makes room for our summer plantings, which this year will include corn, okra, pumpkin, squash, carrots, lettuce, sunflowers, and watermelon.
As with all things on our regeneratively farmed vineyards, we waste nothing in our Edible Garden. Everything lends value and health, so we put it all to use, from leaf to root. Our human and animal teams enjoy the organic foods we grow. The chickens, ducks, and geese are huge fans of the greenery. Extras find their way to our local community market, Dahlia and Sage. We add garden waste to our compost for the worms, who turn it into nutrient-rich humus later applied to our vines and garden beds. These ongoing gifts from our Edible Garden are just one of the many elements that allow us to grape farm successfully in harmony with nature, and deliciously at that!
Why a vineyard should grow more than grapes
Just like with humans, it takes a village to raise happy, healthy plants, including grape vines. All different types of crops lend a helping hand in our efforts to grow grapes naturally. To attract beneficial insects all year round, we grow particular species of plants. Cover crops seeded between the vineyard rows reduce soil erosion and replenish lost nutrient content. And the vegetables, herbs, and fruit we grow in our Edible Garden serve many purposes – increases our farms biodiversity; feeds our team of hungry workers, community members, and wildlife; produces nutrient-rich humus in our compost.
What are easy vegetables to grow organically?
Leafy greens, especially Swiss chard, spinach, and kale, are vegetables most people find easy to grow at home, even for the beginner. Minimal sunlight is needed. Grow best in small spaces, making them suitable for city gardens and pots. They can grow packed together, so simply throw the seeds in the soil, lightly covered. Also, they’re ready to be harvested and enjoyed in a matter of weeks. The hardest thing about growing leafy greens is making sure you pick the leaves regularly. Frequent harvesting ensures a long season of enjoyment, preventing early seeding and eventual death.
What is an easy herb to grow organically?
Mint is easy to grow organically, but grow it in a large container or pot as it has a tendency to run wild and can be highly invasive when planted in the garden. What makes it an easy herb to grow is its preference for shady areas, which most of us have at home. The seeds are extremely small but don’t worry about spreading too thinly when planting them. Just scatter the seeds in your container or pot, then lightly cover with soil. Gently water daily with a watering can or spray bottle and wait for them to germinate. Now wait about a month for some green growth to appear. Even though their seeds are slow to germinate, once mint gets growing it will reward you with plenty of mint leaves all summer long. If you find it hard to use up all your fresh mint, try this: Chop the leaves, place 1 to 2 teaspoons in the compartment of an ice cube tray, top with water, and freeze. Add frozen cubes to your lemonade or tea to give it a boost of mintiness all year round.
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