A week ago, I found out I was providing a free meal to the birds of Mt. Washington. After three years of hard work, sweat, some blood and a few tears, I had my first crop. And these winged marauders were plundering it.
Birds are a ubiquitous pest on many crops in many parts of the world. Vineyards are no exceptions. The best way to deal with this problem is to net the vines. There are many ways to do this and a good summary is provided here.
Yesterday, I completed netting my vines and, hopefully, salvaged about half of this year’s crop.
I netted whole rows, or portions of rows between vines picked clean by the birds. In one row, I had two segments netted at both ends and one vine in the middle netted in a lollipop fashion - all to make the most of the netting I bought at Home Depot and which comes in 14′ by 45′ rolls.
The task was finished by tying the nets together below the canopies. Typically, commercial vine bird netting is 17′ wide and the free edges of the nets are draped on the ground, away from the vines. The nets I bought were not wide enough for that. I bought them out of urgency rather than frugality.
It’s not really a one-man job to roll out nets (especially in light of the height of the vines, the slope of the site and the amount of weeds in the vineyard this year). As I sat under the vines, tying together the netting, I wondered what could be done to make this task easy – year after year.
Commercial vineyards are mostly flat and accessible to machinery. There are tractor-mounted dispenser/applicators for laying out vine netting. I have to do the job by hand.
I got an idea for a simple netting applicator: a length of netting, rolled onto a PVC tube with PVC flanges at each end (effectively, a spool). A wooden dowel is inserted through this spool. Two people carry it above the canopies. The dowel moves freely so the spools can turn on it. With its free end secured at the end of the row, the netting will unroll over the top of the vines. The netting can then be draped away from the vines and pinned down with small metal stakes.
Next year, I will have to buy better netting. Before that, this netting will have to be collected, cleaned and repacked after harvest and before pruning.
This brings me to my final thought – weeding.
This year, the resident weeds have really taken off – likely due to the wet winter and spring as well as the fertilizer I put down around the vines at the end of last season. Some would be inclined to save the effort and not go after the weeds as aggressively, allowing them to be a cover crop and control vine vigor.
The counterpoints to that view are that these plants can
- serve as host plants to insect pests,
- provide these insect pests physical access from the ground to the vines,
- get in the way during netting, and
- get tangled in the netting, damaging it the process and during cleaning.
A video showing how I netted the fruit zone on my experimental Fiano vines is available here.