Happy Harroween

harrow in vain

OK!  So the plan WAS, if you remember right back to April, that after giving the whole site a thorough discing, all it would need in Spring was a few quick passes with the harrows and everything would be beautifully smooth, clear of grass and weeds and ready for planting.  That of course was before the record busting rains in Sept/Oct produced such vigorous growth that I’m beginning to think that Jack & the Beanstalk might have some factual basis.

In fact, 5 passes with the big stump jumpers still didn’t do the trick and the upshot is a change of plan.  We will simply spray off the rows and leave the rest.  At least there is less rush to establish an inter-row cover crop and, as you can see from the picture, the whole slope is now beautifully graded….and nothing but blue skies at last.

A dog, a compass and a measuring wheel…

Measuring up 3
…two of which at least were useful as we set off to make a survey of the block so that an order for the trellis posts can be placed next week.  This represents the biggest investment since buying the land and I have thought long and hard over the right way to go, not only in terms of the training choices, height, end assemblies etc (of which their will be much more in future posts,) but about what materials I would use.

The standard choice is CCA (copper, chromium, arsenic,) treated pine.  It lasts well, although it tends to brittleness, and is relatively inexpensive.  While there have been few issues with chemical leaching, I have encountered the occasional whisper that, in areas of intensive planting, the arsenic residues in the soils are building to levels that might become a concern in the future.

As everything involved in building a vineyard must be done with an eye to the future, I have settled on a new product from the wonderful Ashley Davidson at Woodshield comprising an untreated machined pine post sheathed in a recycled 6mm plastic outer.  These posts have higher breaking strains than treated pine and are suitable for organic viticulture.  While admittedly there are higher initial costs, hopefully they will be offset by long-term savings and minimal environmental impact.  And I feel that I am doing the right thing.
WoodShield brochure

Music to my ears. Latest soil tests even better than hoped

Soil analysis charts


Soil results have finally turned up (click the link above) and were definitely worth waiting for.  Incredibly, all measurements are within the acceptable range with no recommended adjustments.  I was particularly keen to see the calcium:magnesium ratio at 5.5:1 which, while considered a little high for ground crops, is perfect for grapes and should ultimately assist with good skin structure and phenolics.  Very excited now at the prospect of planting late this year.

Early impressions of the soil are good

Soil closeupGood soil is forgiving, bad soil is difficult to put right and the wrong soil is wrong forever.  While I had a good idea what was underneath from previous pedology reports, I was still keen to have another look at it after discing.  With Rob Lee, the soil man from Serve-Ag, we dug 3 small pits at different heights around the vineyard and were very happy to find well-drained, friable soils and no clay pans down to 2 or 3 spade depths.  Now a slightly less nervous wait for the soil tests to come back.