Each winter, we plant our vineyard with a cover crop. This mix of peas, oats and vetch keeps erosion to a minimum, provides a habitat for beneficial insects, and contributes nutrients to the organic vineyard. In the winter, this cover crop is mostly green, dominated by the oats and vetch. As the spring days lengthen, the wildflowers burst into bloom, starting with the yellow mustard (obvious in all these photos) and later moving to California poppies and other more varied flowers. We got out into the vineyard at the end of last week during a brief sunny respite in our overall very wet spring.
A little later in the spring, we will make the decision (parcel by parcel) of whether to till the cover crop into the soil (which returns the maximum nutrients to the soil) or whether to just mow it and leave the roots in the ground.
One of the easiest ways to tell if a vineyard is organic is to look in the winter when it has rained recently. If the vineyard is uniformly green and lush, it it organic. If there are neat rows of bare dirt under the vines, those areas have been sprayed with herbicides. During the summer, it is possible (as we do) to weed among the vine rows with our tractors, to keep the weeds from interfering with the grapes on the vine. But, during the winter it is too wet to get tractors into the vineyard, and anyway the weeds aren't doing any harm at this time of year. Far from it! They are holding the soil in place and are providing habitat for the insects who winter over in the vineyard. Two more photos taken by my dad on Friday: