On our sandy soils and with our hot, dry weather water retention is a must!
As water shortages start appearing worldwide we need to redefine how we use water in agriculture and how we care for our soils. Our farm has been fed from a spring for over 60 years and instead of investing in a well we are putting a focus on sustainable dry-farming practices. Compost is essential to the land here where soils are thin and dry. We use our vines’ cuttings to mulch the area between vines and plant into the mulch after a couple years decomposing. When we plant we throw organic matter into the bottom of the hole to allow for water retention. We then use ollas to irrigate slowly and evenly as the vine needs it.
-Ollas are clay pots that hold water in the ground. Absorption and the pull of the roots searching for water creates a slow release through the clay that leaves the vine searching for more deeper in the soil.
We are implementing Hugelkulturs in other areas of the farm to retain water and add extensive amounts of biomass back into the soil. Ground has broken on the first mounds for our organic strawberry patch. This method uses decomposing logs buried in the ground to slowly release nutrients and store water for the plants being cultivated. Several layers of compost are added to aid in the decomposition process and invigorate the soil creating a raised bed. The plants anchor in to this mass and pull nutrients and water from it with little outside assistance. Our Hugelkulturs will measure up to four feet high and five feet across in beds of over 100 feet!