FCW Happenings: Addressing Soil Compaction

Hello all,
We are restarting our ‘happenings’ blog on the website, and if you are reading this, you have obviously stumbled upon these writings.  We are going to start using this avenue throughout the year to fill in the visitors, customers and curious wanderers as to what we are doing in the vineyard and in the cellar as each vintage progresses. So, let’s get started.  

One of the things that we have been attempting to improve here at the estate vineyards is the state of our soil. We all know that soil health is one of the most important parameters for any plant.  

First and foremost, we are attempting to alleviate some soil compaction, about twenty years’ worth.  We know we can’t do it all in one spring, but we are going to try to improve the conditions as rapidly as possible. If you have been out to the winery, you know that we are pretty well covered with red clay, particularly Rabun and Davidson clays. These are clays primarily composed of eroded greenstone, while dense, it remains friable. Over the years, driving tractors and implements between the rows has created quite a compaction issue near the foot of the vine. So, this late winter, we have been dragging a disc-type harrow through our vineyards in an effort to ‘cut-and-turn’ the soil so that it can be loosened to a depth of about 6”. While this doesn’t entirely fix our compaction issues, it allows us to set down our soil amendments and our first cover crop with much more efficacy.  

Director of Operations Jason Hayman out disking the soil in our Petit Verdot.

Director of Operations Jason Hayman out disking the soil in our Petit Verdot.

Second, we have selected a cover crop in the Brassica family for a few reasons (more on that in a later post). One reason is that it is a natural weed suppressant, and another is that it develops a decent sized tap root that will begin to ‘open up’ the soil well below the disc line.  

Lastly, we also plan on tine aerating in the late spring and fall to further improve deep compacted soil. That’s probably enough for now, I don’t want to give it all away, or I won’t have anything to talk about later.

Gavin will share a short essay on the essentials of our newly adopted pruning practices, and the short of it is that we need a little more defense against the volatile Virginia spring weather, whilst also improving fruit quality. So you’ll probably be reading that next, be prepared, there will be a quiz.  

That’s all for now, and we hope to see you soon.
Director of Operations