In our previous 6 seasons we have dropped our spring vine pruning material on the vineyard floor for slow incorporation into the soil. This year we decided to do something different. After completing our pre-pruning activities we gathered all of the brush and moved it to our orchard.
Cuttings from 5,000 vines piled up behind our orchard
On April 1 we rented a hefty chipper from Grants Pass Equipment Rental and got to work. It's the first time we've used this piece of equipment so there was a bit of a learning curve. I'd been given good instructions on how to slowly engage the chipper so that I didn't kill the engine. I'd been shown how to aim the discharge chute so that the chips went where I wanted them. Still I wasn't quite sure how this was going to work.
Early in the process Debbie and Kevin are gathering cuttings to chip.
We got started in earnest around 10 a.m. and tried different ways of feeding the different-sized and shaped vines into the chipper. The cordons were 2 feet long and 2-3 inches thick with twists and gnarls. The canes were up to 6 feet long and 1 inch thick. And they were all tangled up with each other.
The end is in sight
Maneuvering the chipper had its own challenges. I back up a lot of trailers but none this short. A slight turn of the steering wheel caused significant movement of the machine. There was uneven ground and obstacles such as trees and irrigation lines to avoid. The discharge chute was designed to rotate but not full circle. So we always had to keep in mind that we wanted the chips to end up on the orchard floor not in the yard. As we were nearing completion the daily winds picked up and covered anyone downwind in plenty of dust.
Surveying a job well done!
We finished up at 4 p.m. leaving just enough time to gas up the chipper and get it back to its owners. We ended up with enough mulch to cover the entire orchard floor 2-3 inches and lots left over for the beds around the tasting room. It was a great way to recycle our plant material and was really good exercise!
Not all of the vine trimmings were used for mulch. Debbie had been planning a wreath decorating class for a Saturday morning this summer. She and Becca, who will be teaching the class, selected the best cuttings and produced over a dozen grapevine wreaths of various sizes. The class will be scheduled and an invitation sent out as soon as we are able to re-open the tasting room.
Debbie and Becca's handcrafted estate grapevines.
Debbie crafted a giant wreath to hang on our vineyard gate for all to admire!