Everyone’s been talking about the impending rain. How much? How long? Will it be a gentle soaking rain that allows everyone’s new cover crop to take root or a pounding deluge that will wash it all away? The lack of rain and clear, warm days this summer made for a spectacular harvest. But now, after months without rain and the dust starting to build up, we here in the Russian River Valley were ready for a change. Finally, on Monday, we were blessed with the first rain of the season. It held off long enough for 80 percent of Sonoma County’s crops to be harvested.
Most of what is left on the vines is the hardy Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which have a tougher skin and can handle a bit of moisture.
Imminent rain requires a lot of work on a vineyard. We take care of the tasks every home requires to get ready for fall: cleaning gutters, sweeping leaves and twigs off decks, putting away rain-catching pots and yard toys, and storing the lawn furniture for the winter.
We also lay a cover crop between the vine rows. The cover crop, which is made up of grasses, legumes, wildflowers and small grains, prevents soil erosion and builds up the soil structure to improve the overall quality. It also helps us to control vine growth and improve the water-holding capacity. Rain directly after harvest is perfect because it starts the growth of the cover crop without using irrigation water.
Last weekend, Clay and I were in a big rush to spread a wildflower seed mix that will help with soil runoff on the non-vineyard part of our property. We waited until the rain was certain so the birds and wind wouldn’t take off with our seed.
When I woke Monday morning at 4:00 a.m. to the sound of rain, I smiled and went back to sleep. This year, Mother Nature’s timing was perfect.