Spring in the Vineyard – The Darling Buds of April and May

If you’ve read any of my other posts about our vineyard, you’ll be coming to realise that a vineyard’s work is never done.  Each season brings a different requirement. Obviously harvest in autumn, but then there is pruning in winter and come spring, de-budding.  But what is ‘de-budding’?

In a simplistic nutshell, de-budding (ébourgeonnage in French) is essentially getting rid of extra growth; buds, leaves, shoots… A plant expends energy growing. If it has too many areas to expend energy on then the plant is less vigorous. By removing what you don’t need or want the plant can focus its energies on the areas you want it to, the consequence is healthier and potentially more prolific where you want it, e.g. grapes.

The first sign is ‘bud burst’, which is when the first buds of spring begin to make their appearance. Once this occurs, we have to go along to each vine and manually remove any extra greenery we don’t want, particularly from the trunk or stem of the vine.  On the cordon – that arm where the grapes will show up along – we have to be aware of the amount of foliage we are looking for. Too much and it will block the sun from the grapes, hindering their ripening.

As de-budding means removing extra growth, so too, it means it’s time to weed. Heck, it’s always time to weed.  With growth in the vines, means also growth under the vines. As we are working towards the vineyard becoming biodynamic, there will be no weed killers for us, just our lethal hands.

Since we are new to this vineyard, and are very limited on what tools we have at our disposal, particularly power tools, we opted to try every method we had; hoe, pick axe, rotavator, strimmer, mower, even simply by hand.  With a lack of rain after a particularly wet winter, and quite a lot of clay in the soil, the soil itself had become extremely hard, but we needed to clear around the vine root as much as possible.

The Rotavator was best for this as it not only weeded but aerated the soil, but it was very hard to control around the vines as it had a habit of bucking and not always in the direction you wanted it to. After about a row and a half of this Pumpjack gave up on it and moved on to pick axe and hoe. I opted for the ‘by hand’ method, combining with my de-budding.  In the end we discovered the best method was Pumpjack strimming and then me pulling away what remained.

It was hot, hard work, but the vines were definitely looking healthier for it – but then anything will be an improvement on last years vines. I could almost hear the vines sighing in pleasure at the attention.

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