Sunday, 22 March 2009

To Mulch or Not to Mulch - That is the Question

Sad, I know, but I dreamt of mulching last night. For those of you who are new to the world of viticulture, mulching is not some sort of depraved sexual act (sorry kids), but is a mechanism that can be used for weed control, as well as providing nutrients to the vines.

Weeds can be a major problems in a vineyard, especially if it's organic as you can't use most herbicides to control them. Weeds compete with newly planted vines which can significantly delay early growth, reduce yield and therefore ultimately the profitability of a new vineyard.

So what to do? Well I've been trawling the web and also taking advice from various experts but it seems that there is no definitive solution to this problem. What it appears I have to do is come up with an Integrated Weed Management Programme (IWM) which involves identifying the weeds, choosing the appropriate control methods and monitoring how effective the control strategies have been. It sounds simple but the tricky bit is deciding on the control methods which can involve all sorts of activities including burning or steaming the weeds, using geese or sheep to eat them, cultivation, or mulching.

Mulching involves surrounding the vines with either a groundcover or an organic compost to a depth of between 3-5 inches to prevent the weeds getting any sunlight. I like the idea of mulching using compost but for just 5 acres we need a man mountain of the stuff and the effort in spreading it is enormous even with a special muck spreader.

If you're interested there are a couple of good articles on the web:

Hopefully my dream won't become a nightmare, being attacked by giant weeds and then drowning in a pile of muck!

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