While tending the vines, we also are avid gardeners and tend to our organic culinary gardens. Raised beds, old half barrels, and large plots of land house a variety of seasonal vegetables , fruits, and herbs. We are passionate about heirloom varietals and source our seeds from Sustainable Seed Co. and a local Napa favorite, Van Windens . All under organic cultivation.
One way to create an instant garden with a little Napa flare, is to use an old barrel cut in half. This way you can control the soil that goes into it, hopefully free of weed seeds , and the soil can be easily amended . This type of “raised bed” is more ergonomic than tilling a regular plot of land and is easy to weed. It has a sense of sustainability and although they don’t last forever you can get a couple season’s worth of crops out of them .
Right now we are munching on a variety of lettuce, carrots, radishes , and two types of Bok Choy. Awaiting the arrival of Savoy Cabbage, two types of broccoli (Waltham 29, Romanesco), 2 types of Cauliflower (Snowball and Cheddar), Fava beans, Beets, Fennel, Leeks, etc. Practically any heirloom Winter crop out there we have sprouted seeds and transplanted them into the mix of gardens. Heirloom Butternut and Delicata squashes and dry beans are still adorning our plates from the late Summer/early Fall harvest.
Concerned with the delicate nature of soil, we have put the gardens that hosted the heavy Summer feeders (Tomatoes, Zucchini, Squash both Summer and Winter, etc) to rest. Straw, Fava beans, and legume cover crop all await the Winter rains to fix Nitrogen and add organic matter to the soil. Revitalizing the soil is important for the future crops to be planted in the Spring. Healthier soil yields a more bountiful harvest and vigorous plants. If you don’t have the availability or space to leave one garden fallow then adding an ample amount of organic matter can help you balance out the nutrients , build up soil, and fend off pests .
For those of you looking for inexpensive fertilizer and have an addiction to coffee, I have had great success with using old coffee grounds. There are two types of application, top dressing and brewing compost tea. Top dressing the grounds on top of the soil will add organic matter to the soil and act as a slow release type of fertilizer. Creating a compost tea out of the coffee grounds allows the plants to receive the nutrients quickly acting as a sort of instant fertilizer. Although it isn’t a lot of nitrogen, I would still be cautious about applying too much of this type of organic fertilizer and frankly any organic fertilizer. In regards to bloom, too much nitrogen will cause a light set of fruit i.e. a really big bushy plant with hardly any fruit.
In addition to coffee grounds we always add worm castings to the compost tea and as a top dressing fertilizer. A worm bin is a great way to make your household more sustainable, we use a commercial worm bin called the Wigwam but there are a lot of methods to creating a worm bin for your needs. Worm castings are a great medium to sprout seeds, build up soil, and create compost tea.
As we watch the last leaves fall off of the grape vines and the remaining apples , pomegranate ,and persimmons are harvested off of the trees we are looking forward to the Winter and early Spring bounty.
Happy holidays to all the farmers, organic gardeners , and enthusiasts, cheers!