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