The major issue for us this year has been weed control. Although we would prefer to avoid the use of herbicide, we decided early on to use herbicide to control the growth of weeds in the under vine area. Our plan is to phase this out in future years when the vines are established. Unfortunately, there was a UK shortage of our preferred herbicide, Harvest, and we decided not to use alternatives that didn't biodegrade in the soil. This meant controlling weeds using our tractor and topper, hired rotavator, a strimmer and manual labour, namely, ourselves with some help from family and friends. We, just about, kept on top of it but it hasn't been easy. The green compost that we put down under the vines in July helped quite a bit as it acted as a mulch as well as conditioning the soil and supplying nutrients.
Vineyard monitoring has been carried out by us on a regular basis with help from an agronomist. We've been keeping an eye out for signs of disease and areas where the soil might need improvement. We managed to escape downy mildew until early September when the Pinot noir and Dornfelder started to show signs of it. It was striking to see how resistant the Rondo and Regent has been in comparison. Next year we will be implementing a spraying programme using organic products.
There are many decisions to make when it comes to the care of young vines. We've conferred along the way and listened to advice although sometimes there are no clear answers. For example, is it a good thing to summer prune vines in their first year to get them down to one healthy shoot? We decided that this was something we would do to promote more vigorous growth in the vines and hence ensure better root development. We left the less vigorous vines to do their own thing. Here there was no conclusive scientific research that we could find to guide us.
Overall, we've had a great start and we're winding down, just a little, for the winter