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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dirt work

I need to prepare the soil for planting next spring on our first vineyard bloc. I've been having trouble finding the right implement...I'd like to rip the ground with a chisel plow (or v-ripper) to a depth of 24 inches. I thought it would be a challenge to start a vineyard without owning a tractor. But I caught our neighbor out in a field across from our property where he was discing some ground for winter wheat. He agreed to hit the bloc with the disk, cutting cross ways first and then going against the grain. It'll only be about 12 inches of soil work, but it should at least open up the ground enough for me to lime the bloc this fall and give me some more time to track down a ripper before I plant.

I need to add enough lime to raise the soil pH from 5.5 to 6.2-6.5, which is a better range for vinifera. In these photos you can see my neighbor, Poodle, cutting the edges of the vineyard block. The field has been in pasture grass for as long as anyone can remember, so I should be able to plant right away. If it were row-cropped, I'd want to leave it fallow or cover-crop it to work out any chemicals and add nutrients back into the soil.

In these photos you can see the tractor at work. I also added some lines so that you can see the eventual orientation of the rows. This is an area slightly larger than 1 acre, but it will actually only have an acre of grapes. I need to leave a 30-foot aisle in the middle of the bloc so that the electric company can get to that pole directly in the center.

The advantages of this bloc are its southeast-facing (but mostly south) exposure. The rows are perpendicular to the slope across most of the bloc, though one corner will have rows running directly up the slope. I'll cover crop the aisles with buffalo grass or fescue, so that will help prevent erosion. The bloc is also parallel to the prevailing winds. It's a windy ridge, so this should help with some frost issues as well as with drying out the grapes with the wind blowing down the aisles, which may help with fungus issues.

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