While enjoying your scenic drive through wine country at the peak of grape growing season, you may only notice the full leaves and the beautiful fruit on the vines. But when the vines go dormant, their basic anatomy is revealed to the interested onlooker.
COVER CROP PLANTS: Roses
Author and poet, Gertrude Stein, may have written one of the most memorable phrases when she penned, “Rose is a rose is a rose,” but this lovely blooming beauty is far more valuable when its function in the vineyard is taken into consideration.
COVER CROP PLANTS: Barley
Annual grasses like barley are commonly used for reducing soil erosion and increasing frost protection. Perfect for cool and dry growing areas, barley is often found throughout Santa Barbara County.
COVER CROP PLANTS: Common Mallow
When are weeds not weeds? When they enhance the growing environment for wine grapes.
Grape farmers have many options when it comes to selecting cover crops and each contributes differently to grape production. While the common mallow is not the first choice for a springtime vase filled with flowers and is often considered a weed, for the wine grape farmer, it is a welcome addition to the cover crop arsenal.
COVER CROP PLANTS: Fava Beans
Fava beans are beautiful, edible, and beneficial legumes that most vineyards include among their many cover crops. The plant makes many important contributions to the health of a vineyard, but, most importantly, it improves the quality of the soil by adding more nitrogen.
COVER CROP PLANTS: Chamomile
Those pretty little daisy-like wildflowers you see among the vines are there for more than appearances. You may be familiar with chamomile in its most popular form: tea.
COVER CROP PLANTS: Sweet Peas
Sweet peas are edible little gems that brighten vineyard rows and provide considerable benefits to grape vines. Their charming little flowers come in many colors, and aside from being attractive, they are an extremely valuable vineyard cover crop.
Wes Hagen Explains Dormancy
On our first day out together, the crew went to Clos Pepe Vineyard to meet with Wes Hagen, vineyard manager and winemaker. He gave us a good overview of the necessity of dormancy, his concerns about frost, and expectations for the upcoming weeks.