We have been following a vineyard surface management practice know as ‘vuil bewerking’ in Afrikaans, which translates as ‘dirty cultivation’. It doesn’t sound at all glamorous but we’re delighted with the results.
What it means is that we avoid tillage (sometimes called soil cultivation) as it has negative impacts on the soil. Instead to keep the weeds under control we use ‘slashing’ (literally hacking down the weeds) and mowing as much as possible. Traditional herbicides also have a negative impact on soil microbial life so we try hard to use as little as possible.
Our vineyards now have a lot more grasses. More organic material in the top soil means better water retention, soil aeration, increased water penetration, more microbial life which helps the plant draw up nutrients and less need for fertilizer. It’s an all round winner.
One of the extra benefits has been an increase in seed eating bird species which this year has been especially noticeable and we’ve been coming across various bird nests in the vineyards, some of which we have not seen before like this Lark’s nest.
And here are some quail eggs which very nearly got stepped on! Quail used to be common on the farm when we had pastures for the horses which are on our brand but when the paddocks disappeared so too did most of the quail. They’re making a strong comeback …and we were tempted to eat the eggs but the beauty of nature won in the end!