Archive for the ‘soil’ Category

Putting the Vineyard in “Stinson Vineyards”

May 12, 2011

2nd-leaf Petit Manseng vines with new vineyard in background.

Our newbie grapes arrived from California early in April, dormant and asleep.  Because a big storm was expected on April 16th, our planter Carl Tinder planned to get in as many dormant plants as possible before the rain.  But when we opened the first box of Sauvignon Blanc Musqué we had a big surprise – they were in pots!  This meant they were live plants and much fragile than the dormant ones.  They’d have to plant them right away.  We were grateful for the threat of rain or we might have left these fragile plants in the box for days, thinking they were dormant.

Musqué is a mutated variety of a regular clone that generally indicates it is highly aromatic.  We’ll be mixing the Sauvignon Blanc Musqué in with our regular Sauv Blanc grapes to make a delicious, signature blend.  And of course fermenting it in our 2700 lb baby, the Nomblot Concrete Egg.


Protecting the newbies with milk cartons; Flagging holes for vines.

The other varieties we planted are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and more Petit Manseng.  One nursery sent 50 “mystery grapes” by mistake – unlabeled and unaccounted for vines.  We planted them in pots and once we figure out what they are they’ll be available for purchase in our Tasting Room, just in case you want to give small scale viticulture a try!


Cover Crops I Can Eat or Put in a Vase

March 22, 2011

Our marigold cover crop strip from last summer

I’ve found a cover crop I can live with – catnip!  It’s cute for at least the first year, before it gets woody and hard to pull out.  It has nice foliage, pretty flower spikes, and attracts a diversity of beneficial insects and bees.  It also makes a nice tea for insomniacs, although there’s a limit to how much catnip tea a family can use.  The seeds sprout like crazy, but the plant doesn’t spread invasively from underground roots as some of it’s other family members do, like spearmint.  Where I didn’t want it, it was easy to hoe out.

Before we moved to White Hall, we had no experience with cover crops.  Gardening in Bethesda, Maryland I was very familiar with weeds.  In suburban Bethesda, I felt I was pulling up every weed known to mankind, including the alien vetch (pea family) that was particularly hard to eradicate.  So when I read that vetches and various peas are desirable cover crops, I really didn’t want to seed those things in White Hall without knowing more about them.

Last years rapeseed on the future vineyard site

Our first cover crop was rapeseed, from the cruciferae family of mustards, cabbages, radishes, arugula cauliflower, brussell sprouts, etc, all delicious!  Lucie Morton, our vineyard consultant, recommended the rapeseed because of it’s nematocidal qualities.  It’s in my favorite family of plants anyway because I love all those crucifers (also called the brassicareae family).  None of them – not any part – are toxic to us.  This makes it easy to forage for wild varieties.  We had fields of rapeseed with huge flower buds that looked a lot like broccoli.  The young leaves looked a lot like kale.  They were delicious when steamed like broccoli with a little butter on top.  There many are other mustard family cover crops to experiment with.  Oil radish has a big long white radish root that would be good for cooking with.


Spring Planting

May 17, 2010

It’s official!  Our first new vines are in the ground.

Last week we planted 64 dormant Petit Manseng vines grafted onto 101.14 rootstock.  The rest of the vineyard won’t go in until next Spring, but we wanted to get a small section going this year.  Fingers crossed that we see signs of life soon! (more…)

Spring Soil Adjustments in the Vineyard

March 25, 2010

…And the farm work begins!

We took advantage of the beautiful weather last week to start making some soil adjustments to the old vineyard.  In the country this obviously includes enlisting the help of every neighbor within in a 5-10 mile radius. Fortunately we were able to borrow enough equipment and manpower to get the job done.  A special thanks to MVP Neighbors of the Month Jack Clark and Harold Sipe for all their hard work!

The first step was to plow the field, turning over all the grass from the alleys between the old vineyard rows.  This also cut up most of the vines and roots still embedded in the soil which could infect the new vines and lead to diseases.  Next, we disced it until it was pulverized. Finally, we York raked it smooth and used an automatic seeder to spread Dwarf Essex Rape Seed, which will help suppress nematode populations in the soil. (more…)