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Stories from the valley

Only Weeding under the Vines

Contributed by Tim Johnson

Warm weather and rain bring all the best parts of spring – flowers, birds nesting in the cradling arms of the vines and weeds. Lots and lots of weeds. Not all weeds, however, are problematic. Depending on the particular plant and where it is at means we will manage them far differently.

The vineyard this time of year looks very neat. The vines are all pruned and waiting for a few more weeks to start pushing out growth. The clippings have been mulched and sit on top of the native grasses and clover that thrive in the middle of each row. There is also a bare strip right under the vines. It’s really the only place on the entire 30 acres that we actively pursue weeds.

We want to keep the area directly under the vines vegetation free to keep them from competing for water from the drip lines and the tiny bit of fertilizer we apply every couple of years. If we are successful, the vine canopy will shade out many the weeds that germinate later in the year. As we harvest we will have a clean pick – no grass or weeds in the picking boxes. Both the harvest crew and winery appreciate a bin full of just perfectly ripe grapes.

The grassy strips and well vegetated swales interspersed throughout the vineyard help us manage water quality. They hold any sediment or fertilizers that may find their way from the vines. They also improve water percolation and improve soil health. Because these strips are so important, we spend most of our summer mowing these native grasses rather than discing, as in years gone by.

So, weeds are only weeds when they are in the wrong place. Otherwise, they are one of the most helpful parts of our vineyard.