Sustainable, Organic or Biodynamic Farming
How You Can Use it in Real Life
At Oakville Grocery, we pride ourselves in featuring products from local, small-scale artisans and supporting our local farmers and small businesses. Sustainable farming plays a big role in what we represent. Not only does it help the environment, but it also gives our customers the opportunity to taste the essence of the food and the area we live in.
Our sister properties Raymond Vineyards and DeLoach Vineyards take sustainable farming to the next level with biodynamic farming, and it shows in the quality of their wines and culinary creations. What in the world is Biodynamics? Biodynamics is an interconnected, complex farming system that works in harmony with the natural cycles of the environment and is guided by the phases of the moon, sun, and stars. Obviously, biodynamic farming is not feasible for everyone, but there are some easy ways to incorporate biodynamic farming into your own lifestyle. Each season, we can give you some helpful tips to get the most out of your garden in a sustainable way. We will categorize these tips within different elements - Soil, Plants, Insects, and Solar / Lunar Energy - all of which work in harmony.
Though it's still warm here in Northern California, by November, fall will be in full swing, and your focus should shift to returning nutrients to the soil. Fallen leaves, fruit and other residues can attract disease and pests. You can turn that "waste" into compost, which will be a valuable source of fertility and energy once it's broken down. If you had a summer garden, the remnants of those plants are full of organic matter, nitrogen and micronutrients. Once your plants have faded - but before they dry out - pull them to build your compost pile. Not only will it feed your plants in spring, but it will also build the fertility and quality of the soil. For a compost pile to work correctly, it must be 4 feet on all sides and contain a healthy mix of green vegetation, dry vegetation, water, and air. Steer clear of redwood leaves, eucalyptus, junipers, walnuts, California bay laurel, invasive weeds, diseased plants or cat or dog manures.
Around the time of the first rains, add compost to fruit trees and vines. If you're in a warmer area, it may take a while for the "second summer" to pass. Use a shade cloth and misters to start your fall crops; don't wait too long as they won't develop in time before the short days and frosty nights - usually by November 1. What to plant? Try lettuce, beets, carrots, spinach, kale,
chard, turnips, radish, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and cover crops such as bell beans, vetch, and oats. You might also consider planting garlic. By growing your own, you can access a rich and flavorful world beyond the commercially available grocery store bulbs.
After the first fall rain, plant natives and perennials for hedgerows to create a habitat for beneficial insects and encourage biodiversity. In fall you can also sow native wildflowers for spring blooms, which will attract beneficial winged insects once the weather warms. To help keep bugs out - and raise the ground temperature - try using a floating row cover. It creates a mini-greenhouse effect, helping your fall and winter crops grow a little faster and remain healthy. Though there aren't as many harmful insects in fall, they're still there. Slugs and snails, for example, lay more than half their eggs in the fall, which hatch 2-3 weeks later. Consider adding emptied grapefruit halves or eggshells to your soil, or introduce natural predators such as birds by adding a birdbath. Chickens, if you have them, can also help. Yellowjackets are quite active in late summer and early fall but are beneficial insects themselves, so don't rush to eliminate them. Be sure to clean up dropped produce, for example, as yellowjackets are especially attracted to rotting fruit.
Solar / Lunar Energy
In biodynamics, constellations (Virgo, Scorpio, etc.) are each connected to an element: earth, water, air or fire. Those elements relate to the parts of a plant: earth = root, water = leaf, air = flower, fire = fruit. The effect of the moon traveling in front of each constellation influences the corresponding plant part and is used as a guide to when one plants, prunes, sprays or harvests. Using that same logic, there are also "unfavorable" days to do any gardening at all. Considering avoiding the following dates this fall - 9/27, 10/24, 10/25, 10/26, 11/10, 11/11, 11/23, 12/18 and 12/19.