Still in the thick of planting season, this month we are elucidating the process of planting – putting the vine in the ground – and all the planning and detail around this fairly simple-seeming process.
Long before planting – even before winter sets in – the soil is prepared by ripping, which aerates and shatters compacted soils, which makes the later planting of the vines much easier. Another preparation step is the addition of ameliorants, to adjust the pH of the soil as required. Depending on the soil profile (determined by a thorough soil analysis), lime, magnesium or other minerals are added to enhance the soil quality, which will improve plant health and growth in the long-term.
The planting season spans August to approximately mid-September, depending on the moisture levels in the soil. The holes are carefully dug with a fork (or a spade, depending on the type of soil). What is important when digging the holes, is to prevent the phenomenon known as smearing. Sidewall smearing happens when the sidewall of the hole is too compacted. This can prevent the roots from penetrating through the sidewall, leading tot them growing only in the hole that was dug – like they were planted in a pot. If the roots cannot “escape” the compacted sidewalls, they cannot grow and reach, and the vine will suffer. To prevent smearing, the sidewall is loosened with a fork, to release the compaction.
For exceptionally rocky blocks (for example, the Chardonnay block adjacent to The Tasting Room, which is 70% rock), a small excavator with a modified scoop is used to prepare the holes.
Vines are brought from the nursery (where they are kept in cold-storage) and prepared for planting by trimming the roots, and dipping the roots in mycorrhiza (mycorrhiza refers to the symbiotic relationship between plant roots and fungi). This dipping helps improve the water and nutrient uptake by the roots.
Once the hole is ready and the vines prepped, the individual vines are carefully placed inside the hole, resting on a little mound with the roots draped over and around it, providing them adequate spacing. The vines are carefully pulled up to straighten them, and holes are carefully filled and lightly pressed down. Depending on the soil moisture, a small amount of irrigation may be required, and for the first few weeks after planting, the soil is regularly raked to prevent the forming of craters. Vines are then pruned accordingly, and are ready to begin their journey to becoming productive bearers of the highest quality fruit.