Halter Ranch in Bloom

Happy spring, everyone! In the last week, since the spring equinox, new growth has emerged on our fruit trees, flowers are blossoming, and many plants are looking happier than ever after a long winter. Let's get into our spring update on Le Jardin du Chef. In this blog, we will discuss what crops I planted first and why, as well as what work I've been doing around the property. Additionally, I'll explain no-till farming, the benefits of no-till, and how that is being utilized in Le Jardin.

Before every growing season, Chef Paul and I brainstorm what crops we want to see growing in the garden throughout the year. Picking out your garden seed can be a daunting task; it entails calculating how much seed you will need for the entire growing season, making sure all the seed is organic, and picking varieties that will grow well in your area. I usually try to look for heat tolerant lettuce varieties to grow in the summer since the temperatures in Paso Robles can be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This year we are focusing on greens like lettuce, arugula, Frisée, Asian greens, and a few staples like tomatoes!

During the early months of the year, I plant frost-tolerant crops due to their ability to grow in colder climates. We are still getting frost in the mornings in West Paso Robles and will likely continue to get frost until late April. So far this season, I have planted lettuce, arugula, mustard, mizuna, radish, beets, peas, and kale. All these veggies have done well, and I am ready to harvest the first crops of 2022. Once we are clear of the frost, I can start planting summer crops like tomatoes, zinnias, squash, and sunflowers.

These past few months, I have also put a lot of work into our old fruit tree orchard on the property. This orchard is comprised of about 30 fruit trees; varieties include apple, cherry, plum, nectarine, peach, apricot, and pomegranate. The trees have been recently pruned, sprayed with copper to reduce the risk of peach leaf curl, and set up on an irrigation system. Keep an eye out for some fresh Halter Ranch fruit on the menu!

I have also been working on transitioning a ¼ acre section of Le Jardin du Chef to a 'no-till' system. No-till is precisely what it sounds like; we will not be using a tractor to till the soil in this section! This style of farming is gaining popularity for its impact on soil health. No-till aids carbon sequestration, reduces soil erosion, increases soil fertility, and reduces greenhouse gases. One of the benefits of no-till that I am most excited about is the reduction of weed seeds germinating. Every time the garden is tilled, new weed seeds are brought to the surface to be germinated. This makes my job a lot more difficult because I then have to spend hours a day removing weeds competing with the crops, spreading disease, and providing habitat to harmful pests. The steps I am taking to transition this section to no-till are simple but, hopefully, very effective! The first step was cover cropping the field last fall and allowing the cover crop to grow through winter. Next, I flail mowed the field and then covered it with a tarp or black plastic. The tarp helps with the decomposition of the cover crop and eliminates weeds by the process of occultation, a process that cuts off light to the weeds. The weed seeds germinate under the tarp and then die because they cannot photosynthesize. I am thrilled to try this method in Le Jardin and cannot wait to report back on how well its working!

Soil is not only a medium to grow vegetables in but a living organism that should be treated with care.

This spring, I am focusing on growing high-quality crops while building healthy, fertile soil. These efforts are driven by the understanding that soil is not only a medium to grow vegetables in but a living organism that should be treated with care. This year, the crops selected to grow will be transformed into delicious and creative menu items for the Halter Ranch culinary program in our Tasting Room. Keep an eye out for items like Haley's Harvest Salad, which always has the freshest ingredients grown within steps of our kitchen!

Date Published: April 07, 2022

Category: Blog

 Haley Trengove

Haley Trengove

Haley Trengove, Estate Culinary Farmer