We take great care in keeping our land healthy and productive. Our soils are naturally arid alluvial fans of the eastern side of California’s Coastal Range. They normally have low levels of organic matter because of a long history of sparse vegetation and can be high in alkalinity (pH >7.5). Cultivation and irrigation can change the properties of the soil.
Salts exist naturally in our soils. The Coastal Range, from which our soils came, was formed by tectonic uplifting of the ocean floor. Therefore the soils can contain salts, and we strive to manage them for better plant health.
- Because our soil and our irrigation water contain salts, we continually monitor these levels by soil analysis.
- The use of sprinkler irrigation helps keep salts below the root zone.
- To alleviate the alkalinity and salinity, we apply gypsum (CaSO 4·2H 2O), mined from naturally occurring sites, to our soils periodically. Gypsum helps replace the harmful sodium salts in the soil. It can also help lower the pH of the soil to a more neutral range better for growing crops.
Organic matter is a complex, but beneficial, component of the soil. It naturally comes from vegetation that has grown there. Organic matter can be lost by intensive mechanized farming. There are a number of practices we have adopted to allow more build-up of organic matter.
- Because tillage can destroy organic matter, we have minimized, and in some cases, as in our almond orchards, even eliminated tillage.
- The prunings from our almond trees are no longer burned as in the past. They are shredded and deposited back on the ground as mulch.
- Our asparagus fern, which was also burned in the past, is also shredded and kept as mulch.
- In our organic melons, we utilize cover crops to build up the soil. These cover crops produce huge amounts of organic matter as they also add nutrients to the soil.
- Our fertility program has also been shifted from synthetic fertilizers to the use of composted plant and animal waste.
All these changes, we believe, have not only been positive for our soils, but they also reduce our carbon footprint.