Greg Schultz
 
September 25, 2013 | Greg Schultz

Soil: Amend, Rip, Till

Debbie and I went to visit with Brian Wolf who is the agronomist at the Medford location of OVS.  We brought along the soil analysis that A&L Western Labs did for us to talk about soil amendments.  Brian has been an agronomist/crop consultant in southern Oregon for a long time.  Based on the analysis, Brian recommended we add twenty 50-lb bags of lime and five or six 50-lb bags of a custom fertilizer to our vineyard before we rip, till, and plant.  These amendments will provide the necessary pH and nitrogen/potash/sulfur nutrient adjustments our soil needs before we plant.

We also talked with Brian about pricing and availability of other pre-planting materials we will need and about the possibility of OVS delivering some or all of these with the lime and fertilizer.  Each young vine will be secured to a steel “pencil” rod—we will need about 1900 of these.  Every 20’ along each row, we need a line stake to hold up the irrigation and fruiting wires (and eventually the trellis wires)—we will need about 380 of these.  At each end of every row is an end post which is driven into the ground with a pile driver so as to be strong enough to hold all of the wires (which will hold all of the plants and fruit)—we need about 94 of these.

After spreading the lime and fertilizer, it was time to “rip” the soil so that the nutrients could get where they will do the most good—near the roots.  The other benefit of ripping is that it loosens up the soil so that the young grape vines (when planted next year) will more easily be able to spread their roots.  It is really amazing how hard and compacted the soil gets over time.

Chris Hubert suggested I rent a bull dozer and do the ripping myself—which at first was a bit intimidating.  But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.  I’ve wanted to drive a bull dozer since I was a little boy.  So I started calling around.  “I want to rent a bull dozer—a D5 if you have one” (like I knew what I was talking about).  “Do I need to have a license to drive it?”  Answer:  “No sir, we’ll rent to anyone”.  Things were looking good.  :)  But since I only needed one for a single day, the rental shops were having trouble freeing one up for such a small job. :(

The answer came when I contacted Mike McQuade of Valley Irrigation and Dirt Works.  Mike installed the existing irrigation system on our property, and he had a bull dozer!  I called Mike and he agreed to do the job AND to let me take a few turns.  Oh, Boy!  So, I marked off the outline of the vineyard, and Mike and I ripped it—okay, Mike did 99.9% of it, but I did get to drive (Do little boys have “Bucket Lists”)?

Ripping the field did a great job of loosening up the soil.  But it also left big chunks of hard dirt that were difficult to walk through.  Mike McQuade put me in touch with Paul Fox who lives nearby and has a tractor.  Paul made several trips over--first with a disc and later with a tiller—and smoothed out the field.  By the time Paul finished, the big chunks were gone and the field was smooth enough for me to finish up with my lawn tractor.  Since we are not planting the vineyard until next year, I have a lot of time to finish the job.

One day closer to a vineyard…

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