Thursday, 22 April 2010

Bud Burst and Jack Frost

Bud Burst - Pinot Noir

Spring sees the vines awake from their dormant period over winter. As sunshine increases, the buds begin to burst. The majority of our vines at now at the stage of "full swell". Some are at "bud burst" and a few are showing "first leaf".

This is a risky time in the vineyard as a severe frost can burn the buds. At worse this can result in the entire season's crop being lost. Whilst global warming is generally assisting viticulture in the UK, too much sunshine to early in spring means that the vines will be vulnerable to frost for longer.
Various attempts are often made to protect against frost including lighting oil heaters in the rows, spraying the vines with a chemical solution to form a seal around the buds, or even using helicopters to get air circulation. We can't use the chemicals or the helicopter as were organic so I guess I might be up tonight lighting oil lamps!

Let's hope that Jack Frost won't catch us out!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Something from Dr Who? No - Our New Sprayer!

Looking like something from Dr Who, the sprayer for the vineyard arrived last week.

We decided to go for a second hand model (supplied by Nick Seymour) to get some experience of spraying compost teas before investing in a new one. Already we have had some difficulties, with the larger particles in the tea blocking the nozzles but Alex is confident that we will be able to overcome this little problem by straining the tea before putting it in the tank.

The sprayer has to be kept spotlessly clean so that the organisms in the tea don't die, which means thoroughly washing it (as well as the brewer) after each application. We'll be giving it another go next Saturday.

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Best Brew in Surrey!

Vino and Joel from Laverstoke with the Compost Tea Brewer

Last week we took delivery of our very own compost tea brewer, courtesy of the team at Laverstoke Park.

Compost tea is a water based extract of compost that is "brewed" aerobically to extract organisms (bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes). This is done by filling the tank with de-chlorinated water and submerging some woody compost into it (contained in a fine mash bag). Air is then pumped into the tank from the bottom (a bit like a bubble bath) for 24-36 hours.

Feed stimulants can be added to the brew to promote growth of specific organisims. In our case we're using fish and seaweed extracts to encourage the growth of fungi. When the tea is sprayed on the vines these organisms dominate the surfaces of the leaves which hopefully prevents disease-causing organisms from establishing, particularly mildews. Compost tea also provides plant food which aids healthy plant growth, strengthens the plant's defence systems and, with the addition of beneficial organisms to the soil, will help the recycling of organic matter, improving soil structure.

The tank has a capacity of 1000 litres which should be enough to spray the vineyard when we have planted the full 13 acres and the canopy is fully developed. We are planning to make a brew about every two weeks.

During the growing season Laverstoke will be analysing our compost tea every month to ensure that it has the right level and type of organisms for our soil.

We have no intention of competing with the local excellent hop brewery near Shere, or indeed Philip's magnificent brew of "English Breakfast", but hopefully our compost tea will be just the right brew for the vines.