Summer Among the Vines Pt.2 – Weeds
With the New Zealand summer in full swing, we’re enjoying the sunshine and so are our vines. Unfortunately, there’s another fan of the summer heat — the fast-growing weed.
Now, we love plants in general. But we do tend to favour our vines over anything else, especially when they’re competing with our vines for nutrients and water. And nothing is as greedy as a fast-growing weed, so effective management is a crucial part of our summer work schedule. If we don’t keep weeds under control, they undermine our chances of having an excellent grape crop when harvest time rolls around.
How do we keep weeds under control? Although chemical sprays are highly effective in weed management and are safe for the environment when used carefully, non-chemical weed control is much more ideal. On our certified organic vineyards, we make judicious use of an organic herbicide, but we also have two other handy methods that help us deal to weeds without sprays.
The under-vine cultivator cuts the weeds’ roots and turns over the soil, leaving the exposed weeds to die in the heat and sunlight. The under-vine weeder looks something like a road or gutter sweeper, with rotating brushes that cut and smash the weeds. It doesn’t kill them, but keeps their growth under control.
As well as the machines we also use methods of old, with our vineyard workers pulling out weeds by hand, or cutting their growth with weed trimmers.
But why do we do it? Can’t weeds and winemakers peacefully co-exist? Unfortunately, no. At least not if we want to keep producing our sustainably crafted wines year after year!
First of all, when weeds compete with our vines for water (which is a big problem if we have a dry summer) and for the vital nutrients in the soil that we work so hard to maintain, it reduces our crop levels and our vines start to suffer, losing their vitality and health.
Second, they pose a frost risk. Not so much in summer, of course, but it’s not unheard of. All that weed foliage at ground level is just asking to frost up if an unseasonable cold snap hits, which isn’t good for the vines at all. The weeds also block air movement around and under the vines. Grapes grow better with plenty of good ventilation.
Third, weeds can harbour nasties that our grapes don’t need, providing a handy place for mealy bugs and other pests to hide away.
So, there you go — we need a weed-free zone under the vines to reduce a whole range of negatives that impact vine growth. Because without healthy vines, we wouldn’t get to make the wines we love!