Composting at Laetitia

Have you ever tried composting at home?  If so, you know it’s a fairly simple process which entails reusing your food scraps and garden leftovers and working them over to create a nutrient-rich fertilizer that enhances the growth of new produce/vegetation.  Here at Laetitia we are always striving to be as sustainable as possible and one way we accomplish this is by reusing the grape remains after pressing out the juice during harvest.  What we are left over with is known as pomace, which contains roughly 57% pulp, 25% skins, 10% stems and 8% seeds.  The pomace is brought out to the vineyard where it is lined up into compost piles and the viticulture and vineyard operations team then begin to work together to start the composting process.  While, if left alone, the compost piles would eventually begin to break down, the process can be achieved much faster if tended to.  Elements important to the composting process include air, water and adequate temperature.  We start with a compost turner, which incorporates air into the piles, and then apply water and maintain an internal temperature of 130°F-140°F to kill weed seeds and unwanted pathogens (to maintain temp, we use a thermometer and based on the findings (too low/too high) we take action by either adding more moisture/air or both).  After 2 weeks time, we then maintain a temperature of 110°F-140°F to be sure the environment is conducive with the microbial activity necessary for breaking down the compost.  The entire process takes us around 6-10 months and what we are left with is a natural source of N-P-K(Nitrogen, Phosphorous & Potassium), which are essential nutrients for vine growth and development as well as overall soil health.

While it has been rewarding to reuse our harvest leftovers in the vineyard, in 2012 we took our composting a step further.  Our composting program now is fully integrated with all winery operations.  We have placed bins in each office to encourage all staff to participate by including daily used coffee grounds, fruits, vegetables and other compost-friendly scraps.  We have also included landscaping scraps from around the property including leaves, stems and grass cuttings.  If you ever get a chance to visit our vineyard for a seminar be sure to take a look at the compost piles.  If the smell doesn’t lure you over, the neat rows of beautifully colored pomace and remains will. (see pictures below)  What can YOU do to become more self-sufficient and sustainable?  Build your own compost bin!  You can do this indoors or outside and you will be amazed at how few times you will need to take out the trash.  (You can also brag to your friends that you made your own fertilizer to grow your garden!)  Check out tips at the following link on how you can build your own compost bin and what items are good to use for composting: http://www2.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home.

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