As you can see by the title, I am obsessed with getting rid of weeds. I feel they are the major hurdle in achieving a smooth-running, and professional looking vineyard. Of course this also includes the fact that weeds steal important nutrients from the ground, or water required in the growing of the grapes.
The summer of 2009 has fallen into maintenance mode. We for the most part have gone through the vines the first time for their required pruning. It seemed to take forever but that task is behind us. There will be a second pruning later in the summer to rid of growth we don't need considering next year's plan of attack. And if you're putting energy into shoots that just get cut off any, why keep them ?
We also are doing our weekly mowing to keep grass levels low.We don't want them to grow high enough to go to seed; that's a problem we don't want to add to the list. Jerry is also wrapping up the stapling required to support the wires at the 3rd level. We still need to put the top wires in but there isn't the necessity to get it done this year.....we will need them for next year however, especially for the Nortons. That is a good end of season or winter project. So that leaves us the continued watering and deciding how to tackle the weed issue.
We have done al little of everything in that regards. We have tilled, and that works rather well though slow. It takes a good 3 full days to till 42 rows over the 3 acres. The 12" wide tiller is perfect for each side of the wires, giving us a 24" wide till region. The tiller has one speed though.....slow. We have also done some post emergent spraying, which works OK providing the weeds are 6" or so. Taller weeds just stare back at you and ask what you're doing. There are other "agent orange" sprays that'll kill everything they touch which we don't use. Our vines are not mature enough to risk using it. We also have used the weedwacker to some extent. Be aware of the fact that as the string wips around a 1000 miles an hour it can't differentiate between a weed and a 2 year old vine. It is really heartbreaking to watch a trimmer during a moment of lost attention absolutely wipe out an otherwise healthy vine. After a weedwacking the post emergent spray needs to be applied anyway.....which means hoping the wind dies down in a timely fashion to allow you to mount the backpack sprayer and spot spray between each vine.
I think I have a strategy figured out, and 2010 will be the official test. During February or March (the ground never really freezes here in Virginia) we'll till the rows, and then immediately follow it with a pre-emergent spray. It will be a matter of judgement thereafter as to whether or not more tilling is required, or if we can then stay ahead of it with post-emergent spraying. I really would like to keep the weedwacker out of the formula for no other reason than the aforementioned damage it can cause.
There are some spray systems out there that will allow you to mount a directional wand or boot that directs the spray straight down. This reduces the need to have a windless day for application. Nothing's cheap in this business so I'll have to further take a look at it in the off season.
Time becomes even more valuable next year, in as much as we plan another 3 acre expansion which will require its own set of priorites which will yell for attention against Block 1.
Ken has made progress as well (remember Ken ?). We have an area that sits on the side of the gently sloping hill that we have declared to be our future herb garden and picnic area. It had basically been allowed to go wild. Small evergreens sprouted randomly throughout the area. Poison ivy had found a home in and around the cow fence that was bordering it. We developed a plan to remove the fence, relocate all the small trees to make sort of a wall around the area, kill off the poison ivy (what is God's purpose for poison ivy anyway ?), and start mowing the area. He did all those things and it actually looks civilized now. The designated picnic area will make a quiet hideaway adjacent to the Block 2 grapes, under the trees overlooking the herb garden and the rows of vines.
There is never a shortage of work to be done on a vineyard. It can easily encompass 7 days a week with no end in sight. And when I am down at the vineyard I have to go nonstop to try to make up for lost time; I never really succeed at this. When I drive home I already miss it. My pad of paper is on the passenger's seat next to me to take notes as I remember things. I generate a To Do list for when I get back. All the things that need to be done before I head back south again.