At Wrights Vineyard and Winery, we never use herbicide around our vines or on our vineyards. Our vineyards are all certified organic through AsureQuality. For us it is really important to promote the life of the soil, encouraging soil micro – organisms which then help to release nutrients in the soil which the plant then utilises. Our soils have more structure, more organic matter and a home for insects. Sure they look a little untidy to the eye – but in our eyes this approach is more natural and beauty is in the eye of the holder.
There are several methods which we employ, they are –
The Traditional Method – Hoe & Spade
The old fashioned way, hoe and spade, we often walk the rows and remove unwanted plants from underneath the vines for different reasons – some being that they promote disease spread in the vineyard others might be that they are difficult plants to eradicate once established, or it might be because they can easily grow through into the canopy. This job is best done before the heat of the Summer kicks in.
When we first set up our vineyards we had his and her weed eaters. We use to be so busy weed eating around the plants we had no time to look after the vines. The vibration from the weed eater in the end was no good for my nerves on my leg, I use to get nerve pinches while sitting down. We decided we needed to find a machinery method.
We purchased an under vine cultivator from Butler Equipment United States. The machinery is branded as Calderoni, from Italy. This machine can manoeuvre in and around grape vines while turning over the top layer of the soil and mulching the weeds. We have two heads we can use, one works like a rotary hoe system and the other is a tiller system. We generally go through the vineyards in Spring and rotary hoe and then in Summer we till the top layer.
This machine saves us a lot of time and does a good job. The machine is PTO driven and has its own hydraulics oil. Therefore the tractor does not need to be running fast or need horse power. The general speed we run the tractor at is a slow walking pace.
It is important to ensure the plants are staked if young and also are grown straight up, without any bends as plants like this do not work to well with the machine and can cause the cultivator to run over the plant. I call this natural selection, annoying as it is, I prefer this rather than spraying chemicals like herbicide in our vineyards.
We did a video on our cultivator and have embedded the link, just in case you are interested in viewing.
Another important implement for our tractor is our Side Mower, which goes down the rows and swings in and out of the plants. The mower is a round disc and goes around the plants. This machine does a good job, runs on the hydraulics in the tractor and does one side at a time. My tractors do not have a great flow of oil in the hydraulics area, so this machine is not being used at full potential on our vineyards – but never the same does a good job.