At the end of a month celebrating an organic approach to farming with Organic September in the UK, we wanted to spend some time this year talking about how we approach farming with nature in mind and the sustainable approach we take to our farming here at Heron.
From vineyard, orchards and kitchen garden we farm hand in hand with nature, nurturing and working with it rather than against it. Whilst we are not organically certified, we are committed to working without pesticides across the farm, preferring diversity, companion and interplanting, and use of natural ‘pests’ to keep down other ‘pests’.
One of the vital insects for our farm is of course, bees. Many farmers and gardeners, including us, would not have a harvest with bees. These busy harvesters transfer pollen from flower to flower, or pollinate, which helps fruits and vegetables to form. We positively encourage bees here at Heron Farm, ensuring we have vital bee supporters throughout the farm including early ‘weeds’, verbena, nasturtiums, borage, sunflowers – and we leave many of our edible crops to run to flower and seed which they love!
This year our kitchen garden has provided us with bumper crops across most of the things we grow, but particularly of our heirloom tomatoes, cultivated for their superior flavour, not least of which because tomatoes thrive in dry air and sunshine and wow have we had bucket loads of August sunshine!
We’ve also been blessed with a profusion of our flowers, gracing both the table vases and the plates of our vineyard café. As we move through September cucumbers, courgettes, salad leaves, radishes and beans are all still keeping our kitchen supplied for several more weeks before we start to turn to cool season crops.
For those cooler months, in recent weeks we have planted several varieties of kale including black Cavalo Nero (our chefs love this!) and Red Russian, which we not only use in our vineyard café, but leave to flower providing us with winter edible flowers and valuable overwintering bee food, providing support all year round.
We had a wonderful morning in the vineyard recently with volunteers stripping the vines to continue verasion which began in July, particularly with our Pinot Noir grapes. Stripping the leaves in early September allows airflow through the canopy reducing the risk of airborne fungal diseases taking hold, whilst ripening and concentrating the sugars. Using nature to nurture vines, rather than chemicals.
October brings us the biggest harvest with our unique Heron apples, walnuts, medlars, quince, pears and our rather zingy Szechuan peppers for our Ma La Gin. And of course grapes!
We will be busy making delicious Heron apple juice, sending grapes to our winemakers, lots of pickling and working on some exciting new products for next year! Watch this space!
If you’d like to learn more about what we do here at Heron Farm Vineyard and how we approach farming with nature in mind then our vineyard & orchard tours run from April until the end of September, and you’re welcome to walk the Vineyard Walk at any time of the year.
You may find Fran or Christine working in the garden in winter, and they are always happy to say hello!