Adventures of Janey Grapeseed

A Labor of Love, a Taste of Joy in Life

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Weeding the Shade Line

March 20, 2018

Aside from pruning, tis the season to weed.

Why do I weed in the rows and leave the aisles alone? In between the rows I want erosion control for the hill so I save my strength for the area directly under the vines. In the rows I want warm soil and freedom from things like plant competition and disease.

Marechal Foch is mildew resistant. Resistant does not equal immune. People have told me to plant roses at the end of each row because the roses will tell you all about impending disease threat before it reaches the vines. Well, I don’t have to. Dandelions catch the mildew first. Then the roses. Then the grapes. Dandelions are … Um … Free … and children love to play with them. They are prolific even when sick with disease pressure. They remind me that ground care should be part of my care giving responsibilities as I make efforts to love and nurture the vines.

The thing about having dandelion roots in the rows is that those huge tap roots steal nutrients. Where I live, the soil is already poor and I want all the available nutrients in a three foot radius around individual vines to enjoy proper nutrition. It’s my logical, loving self shining through.

Another thing about where I live are the fir trees. They tower along our southern and northern borders. Because the trees to the south shade the vineyard, I want to increase soil temperatures by decreasing ground covers. Shade cools the ground and ground cover cools the ground. One or both have to go. Since the trees are on my neighbor’s property, our rows get weeded.

Not everybody here on the Key choses to weed their grapes. To be honest, I haven’t been able to weed every year. Life happens. Sometimes the best we can do is to weed whack . Steve and I are doing this vineyard by ourselves and we have to make it work as a part of our lives. We do what we can.

Sustainability here means I need to make sure I have the healthy back and legs I need to get this job done and plan my time accordingly as well. Depending on my time availability, I might choose to weed entire rows (lots of time) or I might just concentrate on working the shade line (not so much time). There are two shade regions in our vineyard; the firs that shade the lower third and ornamental hedge that shades the upper third planted by my western neighbor. The lower third gets the more dramatic shade so that is where I concentrate weeding time.

Working smart here means using the right tools. A rototiller is not an option because of the hill but mostly because we farm a glacial esker and stones seem to self generate no matter what we do. However, a good hoe, a pitchfork, a claw, and a kneeling pad come in handy. 🙂 The hoe and pitchfork make things go so much faster.

There seems to be a controversy about tilling near the vines. I understand. Disturbing the root system is not so beneficial. In the vineyard as in life, we need to pick our battles. Weeds also disturb the root systems as they compete for space and nutrients. So I pick getting rid of weeds to allow vines to thrive even though I may disturb them a teensy bit.

First choice is to get the weeds out of the rows. The next choice is to prevent them from returning.

Another thing I’ve learned about weeding the rows… Scattering food grade cornmeal on the freshly weeded ground is both a pre-emergent (keeps weed seeds from germinating) and and anti-fungal agent. My first 40 pounds I had my son order from the local pizza shop he worked at. Now I’m trying to find an alternate source because the stuff really works well.

How much does it warm the soil? By about three degrees. In our cool climate I’ll take all the degrees warmth I can. 🙂

Labor in Love,