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Wednesday 11 April 2012

Pruning and Digging and Snipping Wild Shoots

Hopefully this will be the last pruning post (for this year). Not because I've almost finished the pruning, but because I'm getting fed up writing about pruning and would quite like to write about something else too!!! About vineyard and winery things, that is.

But, I do have some interesting (I hope!) anecdotes from my latest pruning session over the Easter break:


I actually counted the vines that we have in the vineyard in Villarejo! It turns out that there are about 820. But I'll have to count them again properly one day and draw a map, because it's not so simple. The rows have 41 vines and there are about 20 rows, BUT it's not a regular rectangle! One of the sides is squinty so it's more like a lopsided parallelogram! Also, the vines are not planted in square grid shape, but in a hexagonal pattern (called 'tresbolillo" in Spanish), so each alternate row may really have 40 or 42 vines!

Anyway, as of Monday 9th April, I still have about 520 vines to go.

Wild Shoots

I'm going at a rate of about 10 vines/hour, which is very, very slow. The reason for this is the wild shoots that are growing around the vines, sometimes directly from the main trunk from under ground level, and sometimes independently rooted just next to the vine.

Ridiculously long, thin and numerous wild shoots

This must have been due to laziness on the part of the person who ran this vineyard before we took it over last year. It would seem that he just snipped these shoots back at ground level, without uprooting them or cutting them back properly from the main trunk. This would solve the problem for a year, but the deeper problem would just get worse and worse. As you can see from this vine above, for example.

Not all the vines are that bad, but I reckon about 75% of all the vines have some wild shoots that have to be dealt with.

State of the Soil

Well, as I'm digging so much in the soil, I've been getting a good look and feel of it! I think it's surprisingly healthy! There are earthworms, and other beasties underground, always a sign of a soil which is alive and healthy I believe. Above ground there's a veritable plague of ladybirds! I've never seen so many. They must be eating up every single aphid in the vineyard! Unfortunately I can't take a decent photo of them with my current mobile.
Other fauna

Butterflies, magpies and another type of singing bird which I can hear but have never seen. Moles, or mice or some kind of tunnel-maker, as can be seen from the holes and little piles of earth here and there. I presume that this is a 'good thing' as this will help aerate the soil.


The grass has started to grow, and some flowers and plants too. We have mostly little white flowers and little yellow ones and occasional little blue ones:

White flowers

Little blue flower
(pending: forgot fotos of yellow)

Wild Shoot Elimination Sequence

This is how I do it:

This is the way a vine looks (1) when I approach it for the first time. First of all I prune the top, as usual,
otherwise the canes get in the way.

Next step (2) is to clear away the leaves and vegetation (if any) so that I can see what's there, and then to snip the shoots away at ground level:

Step (3) is to dig a trench next to the shoots so as to expose the roots, down to about 20 or 30 cm. Sometimes they go deeper, but I'm hoping that at that depth they won't be able to grow back.

Step (4): Snip! Snip! Snip!

Then, pull the earth back into the trench, and lastly, superficially dig up all the earth and grass in a radius of about 50 cm around the vine, so that it ends up looking like this (5):

Then, repeat Steps 1 to 5, and you get a nice row of vines that look like this:

One row done
I'm doing this so that the vine can have what little water is available. Otherwise the grass and flowers nearest to it would drink it all up. Normally, I don't think that this would be a problem for the vine, as it can access deeper water, but we're in a drought cycle here in central Spain, so I think that every little bit helps.

And the reason for cutting away the wild shoots is so that the vine can focus all its energy and nutrients on the fruit-bearing upper branches - instead of producing and feeding all those unproductive shoots.

The Rain in Spain

Well, even though it rained during the Easter break (enough to spoil everbody's holidays, as tradition demands!), it didn't really rain a lot, at least not to the east of Madrid! And here's the evidence to prove it: the second-last day I went to prune, at some point I took off my jumper, as I was too hot, and laid it on a vine intending to pick it up when ready to leave; but I forgot it, and there it stayed for two days while it was supposedly raining. When I noticed it the next day I went, it was almost dry!!! Only just a tiny bit damp.

My dry jumper after two days in the rain!
A Really Wild Vine

I found this beast (below) the other day, hidden in the grass between the first row proper of the vineyard and the road. I was just about to dig it up, when I thought that it would be nice to leave it alone and see what it does! So I even made its life easier for it, by cutting back the tall grass and flowers near it, and by pruning it a bit.

(dammit, lost the photo, will take again, next time, sorry)

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