Planting to keep caterpillars at bay
Usually things are really taking off in the vineyard in May, but this year the budburst is a little late and the changeable weather is holding things back. The slow start hasn’t stopped us from cutting the grass though – not so it looks neat and tidy, although it’s nice to see the vineyard looking smart. We keep the grass short to mitigate against frosts. Cold air flows downhill like water, so if the grass is too long, the cold air builds up and can potentially be very damaging. We also like to keep the area under the vines clear of weeds, as they compete with the vines for water and nutrients. If not controlled, later in the season the weeds will grow up into the fruiting zone and create all sorts of problems for us.
Some insects are very beneficial to us on the vineyard, others less so. Hoverflies, lace wings and parasitic wasps all act as eco-friendly pest control, keeping the light brown apple moth caterpillars at bay. These caterpillars usually appear before flowering, their eggs hatch and the new caterpillars eat the emerging flowers. They also sometimes end up inside the grape bunches, nibbling away and causing damage, which in turn allows mildew and botrytis to infect the bunches. In short, we don’t like them! So we plant plenty of phacelia plant around the vines, to attract the hoverflies, lace wings and wasps. These helpful insects loves it (as do bees and butterflies) so it’s a great deterrent around this time of year.