Tending to the land and leaving it replenished for future generations is at the core of Howard Park’s viticultural philosophy, and under the guidance of Chief Viticulturalist Dave Botting, his team have worked across our vineyards in Margaret River and the Great Southern to ensure they grow the best fruit they can while actively giving back to the land, as well as employing gentle farming techniques and focusing on their closed loop waste management system which sees grape marc being turned into compost and fed back into the soil.
Organic and Biodynamic Practices
Guided by the Australian Standard for Organic Agriculture and influenced by biodynamic practitioners in Burgundy, France, the vineyard team has worked to integrate organic methods and select biodynamic principles into their farming practice but have decided to remain uncertified. This decision allows the team to cherry-pick the best of old and new world principles that suit the individual and complex needs of each vineyard. Because of their diligence in these areas The Leston vineyard and winery is now certified under EntWine, through the Winemakers Federation of Australia.
Closing the Loop with Compost
Howard Park has seen significant advancement in its composting resources, knowledge and practise over the last 10 years after Senior Viticulturalist Nick Taylor initiated the roll out of the closed-loop school of thought, where waste is converted and returned to the land, improving vine health, grape quality and yield. After vintage, marc waste is composted with organically-certified cow manure, straw, fish emulsion, malty liquid fertiliser and wood chips and then used on our vines in both Margaret River and down in the Great Southern where the soils are in greater need of nutrients.
The compost program has also seen the team conduct a small amount of tree farming and crop growing to feed its compost alongside the grape waste. The time spent by the viticulture team on composting is significant and minimises the need for additives that come from outside the vineyards’ own ecosystem.
Howard Park’s exhaustive compost program vastly helps eliminate the use of fertilisers, by starting with rich, nutrient soil. In instances where soil aid is needed, all organic-based fertilisers are used, such as rock phosphate.
A Gentle Approach to Weed Control
Carefully-selected ryegrass and perennial clovers are planted between the vine rows. While this may give the appearance of a wild vineyard, these grasses are carefully selected and encouraged for their ability to hay-off. This carefully selected and grown thatch suppresses summer weeds while retaining moisture and organic matter in the soil.
Wooly Winter Workforce
Each winter we employ a group of seasonal sheep to graze the Leston Vineyard from June to September. These wooly workers help us to save on tractor usage and diesel, while almost entirely eliminating the need to use herbicides – in return the sheep get to eat to their heart’s content and our vineyards stay weed free.
The winery and vineyards are totally water sufficient. Rainwater is collected from the winery roof, and all winery wastewater is recycled and used to irrigate the tree lots on our properties.
Insecticides and Fungicides
Small quantities of copper and wettable sulphur fungicide sprays are applied when required, and both are inline with the teams organic and biodynamic standards. When caterpillars or grubs are an issue, a naturally occurring, organic bacterial suspension is used. These measures ensure that any runoff or leaching isn’t detrimental to the earth or the plant.
In the winery itself we make sure that all glass, cardboard and plastic waste at the is recycled, and that all light bulbs are environmentally-friendly, low-energy models.
To learn more about viticulture and sustainability at Howard Park watch our video