Farm management practices we use:
We have designed a polyculture, where plants are mixed in space, as opposed to monoculture, where only one crop grows in any single area. We have not planted in a conventional linear or diamond-shaped configuration. We have considered the slope of the property and have followed the contour lines of the terrain. In this way, we avoid rainwater run-off and the erosion that inevitably follows, and we achieve maximum water infiltration in the soil.
By alternating plant species (olive trees, pomegranates, fig trees and aromatic herbs), we try to mimic the pattern of a natural forest ecosystem, enhancing biodiversity, balance and resilience in the system. For example, we grow the more water-hungry aromatic plants, like mints and lemon balm, just under the shade of the fruit trees, so that the plants do not get scorched from the summer sun and the irrigation water does not evaporate quickly.
We supress weeds by mulching densely with organic materials such as straw or wood chips from our prunings and by cutting the weeds in between plantings instead of tilling the soil, in an effort to keep the soil covered a 100% for 100% of the time. Keeping the soil covered means that there is less water evaporation from the soil, the soil temperature is regulated to avoid extremes, wind and water erosion is minimized and soil is enriched with organic matter and beneficial microorganisms.
We have planted many species that do not provide any direct crop yield but perfom many useful functions. Drought tolerant acacias and legume bushes, enrich the soil with nitrogen that they capture from the air, provide wind sheltering for the crop plants and food ans shelter to birds, bees and other beneficial insects. We have also planted green manures in between plantings, (legumes like medic, clovers, peas, lupins, vetch and barley) adding nutrients and biomass to the soil. By avoiding tilling altogether we have also seen the wild legumes and other beneficial wild plants thrive as well.