Winegrowers Supplies  -  Black Plastic Mulch

To suppress weeds you (or a local agricultural contractor) should lay black plastic 'mulch' (polythene or woven polypropylene) over the vines immediately after planting, before the vines start to grow and while they protrude only a few inches above the soil.
A small cut has then to be made to let the vine poke through; with woven polypropylene it is necessary to burn a hole (with something like a very hot soldering iron, the big old fashioned sort that a Blacksmith would use, heated to red hot) so that the woven edges don't fray with time.

Choose the black plastic in rolls 1050mm (or 1200mm) wide. There are simple machines that unroll and lay it, tucking the edges under the soil. The mulch layer fits on the 3-point linkeage of a tractor, it does not use the Pto. A typical hire price is 15 + vat per day, minimum charge 50 + vat, plus all carriage to and fro. Laying about 3000 metres per day seems about average.

Simple black polythene sheet (which I have used) starts to disintegrate after 3 or 4 years and then needs to be taken up, which is an advantage if (as I do) you then cultivate the soil with tractor-mounted under-stock hoes.

Woven polypropylene (Mypex or other makes) lasts for many years. www.jfcmonro.co.uk shows a current price (1.05m x 100metres) of 44.10, and there's discount for multiple rolls (eg. 35 for 88+ rolls). Allplas have similar at higher price. Monro also sell a European-made woven plastic (1.00m x 100m) which is even cheaper, also discount for multiple rolls (25 for 88+ rolls).

The only disadvantage with plastic mulch it is that vine weevil like to live and breed under it - a major problem if you have vine weevil on the land, not many people have though. You then have to take up the plastic, and spray to kill the weevil (it would be necessary to contact DEFRA about this).

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