Wild-growing plants in the vineyard and the practice of planting ground cover
For those of you that have had the opportunity to stroll through the vineyards, you will have certainly noticed the different types of plants growing between the rows of vines.
In the past, it was quite usual to have a total absence of wild-growing plants and weeds because they were thought to hinder vine growth and a good harvest.
However, over the last few years, thanks to greater concern for the environment and the benefits of these plants for the vineyard cycle and the ecosystem in general, vineyards embellished with a lively vegetation are now common.
Not only are weeds left to grow freely in the vineyards, but different types of cover are planted in the autumn and winter. This is an ancient practice referred to as ‘green manure’.
What is the objective of green manure? And what benefits does it have?
There are many positive aspects; these are some of them:
– Restoring nutrients to the soil by sowing legumes that fix essential nitrogen and potassium via their root systems. This practice is particularly useful in monocultures, where diversification of crops from year to year is not possible.
– Green manure is a fertiliser, as annuals are cut down and are either left to decompose or are dug in to provide humus, which is essential to plant growth.
Green manure reduces work in the vineyard as root systems keep the soil both soft and compact, reduce erosion from rain and the passage of caterpillar tractors.
– Spring flowers attract bees. These help with fertilisation and the production of fruit.
There are different types of green manure, usually sown along with useful species of plants, chosen for the particular benefits they can bring to the various types of culture.
Many wild-growing plants appear spontaneously amid those purposefully sown, and some of these are used in cooking the local cuisine, which is rich in tradition.
For example, wild hops, called luvertin in Piedmontese are excellent in a frittata; wild mint makes a great infusion and nettles, chicory and dandelions make refreshing tea.
Spring is the best time to admire the flourishing vegetation, beautiful flowers and the bees buzzing about their work. It’s a unique moment to appreciate how important it is to safeguard nature.