The art of vineyard compost spreading


The grape vine (Vitis vinifera) is one of mankind's oldest friends, having been domesticated at least since the neolithic era and sought out in its wild forms long before then. England famously used to grow a great deal of wine in mediaeval times, but a colder climate during the "little Ice Age" made it generally believed to be beyond the northern limit of commercial wine production. Things changed in the 1950's, when commercial vineyards were again established in the south, and today, England has the fastest-growing vine cultivation area (proportionately) in the world.

Of course, we are there to assist. In modern viticulture on these latitudes, vines are considered to benefit from a good application of compost when they are first planted, or the year after, and then every 4 - 5 years after that. The product applied is PAS100 compliant 20mm screened compost and typically, it is applied at 50 tonnes/hectare (or 20 tonnes per acre if you are still working in imperial). The benefits of compost are threefold: weed suppression, moisture retention and soil improvement through the addition of organic matter.

However, the compost needs to get to where it provides the most benefit, which is around the vines themselves, so accurate spreading is very important. In olden days, this would mean a worker with a wheelbarrow and a spade - backbreaking and tedious work. Today, the job can be done very efficiently by mechanical means - if you have the right kit for the job. In the photo above, you can see the specialist compost spreader built by our contractor Charlie Moon - it fits very precisely between the vine rows (which are usually planted 2 metres apart - any closer than that and it's back to manual methods). It was designed based on many years' experience and can put down the precise amount of compost desired just where it's needed. The spreader is big enough - taking up to 4 tonnes of compost - to minimise the loading effort, yet small enough to fit into the narrow spaces available.

The contact for this type of work, and any other agricultural compost spreading is Peter Traill, on 01797 252298.