The Vineyard    Our Wines     Contact Us

Preparing the Ground

We ended 2001 having just sprayed off strips in the field. After many cold weeks the Roundup spray finally took effect and yellow strips started appearing from out of the lush greenery. By the end of January the effect was quite impressive, and also revealed that I had sprayed in some of the wrong places. In fact my end two rows were totally in the wrong place!

I toyed with the idea of just leaving the dead grass, but was worried that by the time holes were dug for posts and for planting the whole thing would look a mess. So I decided to rotovate the top few inches of each strip to leave clean earth. Our regular garden rotovator wasn't going to cope so I hired a pneumatic 13hp one from the local hire centre.


With all the roots of the dead grass, not to mention the quality waterlogged clay soil, it was a very long day and by the end of it my arms and my back were killing. If it had been nice easy previously tilled soil it wouldn't have been so bad but I was constantly having to fight the machine heading off at 20 miles an hour above the surface rather than working away below it.

Still, once it was done it really looked as if things were starting to happen. When I bumped in to the postman delivering our letters a few days later, he had enough clues to ask "putting in a vineyard then"?  I was delighted to be able to confirm his guess.

We have had significant problems with rabbits and moles. Our neighbour, Sir Simon Hornby (ex President of the RHS) was suffering too so we had a visitation of the local ferret man. Net result over the weekend was a significant reduction in the rabbit population but we still seem to see some a little too often. I think they will be a perpetual problem. As for the mole(s), the rotovating probably gave them a sore head, and I was hoping they were going to be discouraged even more by what I had planned next!

All the books (the most often quoted is Jeff Cox's 'From Vines to Wines') say that soil cultivation is key to establishing a healthy vineyard. We are told vines roots go down over six feet, so it is important to work the soil to a significant depth to help the root system establish. No one locally was prepared to dig the three foot wide by three foot deep trenches Cox recommended, but I was determined to make an effort. I decided to hire an auger rig on a mini-excavator and dig twelve inch wide planting holes to a depth of at least three feet.

The machine duly arrived and after instruction I was away (with help from son Robbie) digging a 3 foot hole every three minutes. Beats using a spade!

Each hole left a little mole hill (look, you have serious competition Mr Mole) comprised the top soil and an amazing variety of subsoils, all of which were clay based but had remarkably different consistencies. It was amazing how much it varied over the field. It made me wonder if the soil survey was worth the paper it was written on. In some places I hit a layer of malmstone, which the auger struggled to break up.  The soil survey claims that the malmstone is permeable to strong roots as it has a granular consistency, so hopefully the vines won't mind this.

With all the holes drilled in a day and a half, it was time to call in the trellis experts!

Next >


    © McLeod 2007