Wrights Vineyard and Winery takes a holistic approach to the vineyard, applying natural farming principles on our farm. We raise our plants in the same way you bring up a child. In that you have to nurture them, care for them, feed them and ensure they are living a well balanced life.
We achieve this through a mixture of methods, such as composting teas, homeopathic sprays, mulching, organic matter, increasing bio-diversity, positive micro-organisisms, mechanical weed maintenance, free roaming ducks, and planting a mixture of plants on the farm.
To help New Zealand and the world become more organic or to apply natural farming techniques, we will be listing the methods we have used on our farm and some of the hurdles we have overcome or have not. Feel free to use these methods yourself or refer other people to them. We also have a newsletter, that comes out every two months, which keeps you up to date with Wrights Vineyard and WInery, useful information on organics and the wine industry. To subscribe simply enter your email address and then click the 'subscribe' button..
At home we already had a composting heap, that we thought was working fine, although we never seemed to ever get any compost from it. We took the next step and created a worm farm. They are simple to make, you don't need to go down to the Warehouse and spend $150. The hardest thing is finding the worms. If you know someone with a worm farm, I suggest giving them a call and picking up a handful of these worms and putting them in your worm farm.
Worm Farm Set Up
Equipment: Good clean compost, strong plastic polythene, a tray to put the compost in and tiger worms.
Find an area on your section to put the worm farm, maybe next to your existing compost area. Lay down the polythene on this area, put the tray on top. The polythene underneath the tray will help keep the worms in the worm farm.
Then lay a second layer of polythene in the tray. Cut four crosses in the polythene, this will allow the water to come out of the worm farm if it is raining hard, thus saving your worms from drowning.
Put the compost inside the tray, filling it up. Now you will need some food to put on top, I suggest keeping an icecream container under the sink for this, to store your food scraps. The worms don't like meat too much, so I would suggest no meat on the worm farm, plus this will help to minimise maggots.
Once you have got some food scraps add them to the top of the worm farm, then apply some grass or weeds to go over the top. This will help the scraps break down and allow the worms to get at them.
Some pointers, worms are hungry, so it is important to keep feeding them, say at least once a week. Also they don't like it when the compost gets too hot, so be careful not to add too many grass clippings, as this can cause the compost to over cook. Also worms tend to go where there is a mound, so ensure there is a high point in the worm farm, where there is food.
It is also important that the farm doesn't dry out, so again keep an eye out for this, especially during summer. One way to monitor this is if the soil on top becomes dry, just grab the garden hose and give it some water. Also worms will leave your farm if you don't have a matt underneath the farm, which stops them from digging into the earth. Good luck, it is heaps of fun.
Just recently I have discovered the power of seaweed spray. The process is very simple and very beneificial. All it involves is going down to your local beach and picking up the seaweed which has drifted on to the beach after a storm and then taking this home.
Cleaning the seaweed at home, removing sand and salt water, then storing the seaweed in a water solution for a month. During this period pressing down on the seaweed every couple of days to mix it up and ensure that oxygen goes through the solution.
After a month, present will be this rich dark liquid, it smells just like seaweed/fish, but has this spark of energy, waiting to be applied as a foliar spray to your plants. The foliar spray should be watered down to a 5% solution and applied in the evening or on an overcast cool day.
By adding a seaweed foliar spray to your plants regularly the plants will be much more healthier, stronger, more even growth, meaning an overall picture of less disease and more fruitfulness. I recommend it and stand by this spray, as I have seen immediate results from a seaweed foliar spray, even in the area of knocking back powdery mildew.
We have been practising biodynamics on our vineyard since 2007. Our initial phase was to apply preparation 500 throughout the vineyard/orchard.
In 2008 we set up our first cow dung pit. We obtained the cow dung from a neighbour who was also organic and biodynamic. Once we had obtained enough cow dung, we dug a whole by 1 metre by 1 metre, and 30 centremetres deep. We set in a frame for the whole, and pegged the corners.
Once the hole was completed and framed we then placed the cow dung in it and then put the five sets of biodynamic preparations 502 - 507, pressing them in at thumb depth, at around 20 centremetres apart. The valerian preparation 507 is mixed in water and then poured over the pit.
Over the pit we placed a sack to help retain the moisture and a wooden lid. It was also important to use untreated materials for the pit. After several months the cow dung was broken down into compost. This preparation can now be used to in conjunction with preparation 500 or by its self, and applied to the vineyard.
Since the post war industrial chemical era, horticulture and agriculture practices have changed considerably. At our vineyard/orchard we believe promoting bio-diversity, from the animals, insects, sward of grass, plants and soil micro-organisms.
On our vineyard we have planted native areas. Patches of land in which we don't harvest or find it hard to get to with the mower. We see that this will help maintain insects - beneificials and predators, attract birds - which will help reduce insects and yes eat our crops, but not all of it. With the animals we have introduced domestic ducks to help reduce the beetle population, especially the grass grub.
On our vineyard we have alot of yarrow, these plants attract hover flys which eat leaf roller. Other beneficials we have increased on our vineyard due to our practices of bio-diversity are lacewings & parasite wasps (tasmanian, brachymeria & dolichogenidea). We also apply biodynamic preparations which increase the life of the soil and thus the micro-organisms. This then allows more nutrients for our plants, healthier plant development, more disease resistant, thus a better fruit, nutritionally and taste wise.
With the rising awareness of the what chemical/monoculture growing is doing to our lands, food, environment and native species. Now is the time to be responsible from the the producer and consumer. By implementing some of the above practices, will be a step closer to being more sustainable.