Preparing the orchard for winter

The weather expert at The California Weather Blog has repeatedly stated we are in for a good, wet winter. Now, betting on the weather is a bit like gambling on horses (i.e., don’t bet the ranch), but Daniel Swain DID identify the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, which is one of the main reasons we have had so little rain over the past few years. So he is my “go to guy” for all things climactic…

In the hopes of increased water this winter, we decided to plant cover crops in the rows of the orchard. We are using a seed mix called “Paso Plough-down” to hopefully break up the soil so the water will soak in more effectively and provide us with additional nitrogen this spring when we till it in. A number of the vineyards are using a similar method with a lot of success, but little is known for how olive orchards benefit from this approach.

We borrowed a seeder and brought it to the ranch. Had a minor mishap when the tie down strap came loose and the seeder rolled off the end of the trailer as we went up our driveway. The seeder landed squarely and rolled back down the hill, across the shoulder, and through the neighbor’s wire fence, surprising her lounging cattle. With a little help from a friend (thanks Rodney!), we got the fence repaired before the cows could figure out the coast was clear.

We started bright and early the next day and, once we figured out how to set the seeder up correctly, we got down to business.

Despite the new heavier tractor, there were a few tense tipping moments when we raised the seeder and made a turn down the hill.  But the seeder worked beautifully and we got all ten acres completed before the rain. Now we just have to wait for the rain to come and let the seeds do their thing…