Soil Health - Building Resilience to Drought

Soil Health - Building Resilience to Drought

California farmers grow more than a third of U.S. vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts.* So when we have a dry winter and find ourselves in another drought, people from coast to coast talk about what should change and how they can help. One idea we’ve seen is to reduce the demand for certain crops. 

Should people sacrifice the great taste and health benefits of Frog Hollow Farm fruits and nuts during the dry season? We say no. Why? Because we all need to eat! Building soil with water holding capacity is an important answer to water shortages and water usage. Here’s how Frog Hollow Farm has created a soil environment that adapts to drought:

We farm differently
Healthy soil is the building block of healthy trees – and water conservation. Farmer Al and our farm team has been fine-tuning our soil regeneration practices since the late 1980s, and the result is healthy, super-porous soil and a biodiverse environment that saves and maximizes our precious water.

No peel left behind
What many people consider waste, we treasure as a different kind of food – soil food! Frog Hollow Farm makes several thousand tons of compost each year from fruit peels, pits, cuttings and more, creating vast rows that are home to billions of microscopic organisms. Fungi, bacteria, nematodes, earthworms and other beneficial insects eat and move through the soil, breaking it down and making it easier for tree roots to absorb each drop of water. 

The backstory on understory
Some farmers poison or till the plant life, or understory, that sprouts around trees in an orchard. We encourage it. The orchard floor is a lush carpet of grass and flowers—it’s wild and colorful, it keeps the soil cool, and it keeps moisture and nutrients close to the tree roots.

Conserving water is just the beginning

Compost and understory increase the organic matter that teems in the soil that feeds our orchards. And for every 1% increase in soil organic matter, the soil can hold 20,000 more gallons per acre. 

We water with intention, using micro-sprinkler irrigation systems that apply just enough water to trees exactly where they need it—on the root zone. And all the work we’ve done to create porous soil helps our trees more efficiently use and store the water they receive. 

Healthy soil retains water and nutrients that feed the roots and the fruit we harvest. Our orchards are more resilient to drought, and we don’t need to water it as much, or for as long.  

microsprinklers at work

Technology in the orchard
We never want to overwater—it’s not good for the orchards or for water conservation efforts. While we monitor our soil daily, after all these years, it self-regulates. Nature has a way of doing that. Technology helps us know even more about what’s going on underground. We use sensors throughout our orchard to measure moisture levels at different levels. We rely on this data to ensure we are using every drop of water efficiently.  

The time and care we put into the soil help us grow sweet, tasty, no-guilt Frog Hollow Farm fruit and nuts. Enjoy!

* California Department of Food and Agriculture. 

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