Now Good Vibe Vineyards could probably have a whole dedicated blog page to 'Lessons Learned the Hard Way' - netting is one great example of that fact. Let me start by recapping last year's adventure in netting and what we did differently this year.
We are so blessed to have Erik's Dad on our team out at the vineyard. I call him El Jefe as he really runs the show full time out there. One of his many talents is cost savings, some of those are great, while others we have to remind him about a dollar well spent. His great ideas more than make up for the ones that are less than great. The Netter Getter (see Nettergetter.com for more details) is a bird netting applicator that quickly and efficiently deploys netting over the vines to keep the birds away. While it is an excellent piece of machinery it comes at a price. El Jefe came up with a system so that we could deploy our netting in the same way with very little cost. This system worked well last year with just a few snags (literally) that we were able to work out this year. While the deploying was simple we didn't stretch the net effectively last year causing us to have a lot of slack in one area and no slack in others. I think the biggest headache we faced last year was sewing the nets on the bottom to keep the birds from sneaking their way up inside the netting. The sewing technique is very tedious, time consuming and FRUSTRATING. We ended up only sewing shut two or three rows last year and not very effectively. This year Erik saw a post on the yahoo forums about using bread clips to close the nets off. Wow, let me just say, mind = blown! How did we not think of this??? It was still back breaking work with all of the bending and/or squatting to get it done, but it turned out BEAUTIFULLY done, so clean and way less frustrating.
Our failed attempt at netting last year resulted in losing our first viable crop, it would have been a small 1/2 ton crop, but instead we walked away with half of a 5-gallon bucket and a valuable lesson.
What we learned:
Net early, before the grapes start to turn. Once they are sweet and delicious the birds move in and the wasps and bees are sure to follow.
Spread the netting out on either side while deploying your nets, more slack is always better than not enough.
Ditch the old school method of sewing those nets. It's a miserable task and way too time consuming. Buy bread clips, enough to clip on either side of the vine and one in the middle between each vine. So calculate 3 bread clips per vine when ordering.
Have an amazing team of hard workers! Not only does it go much faster but it makes it a lot more fun.
Jeadean Meade, Erik Reyes, April Reyes, Craig Hubbard, Jennifer Hubbard, Andrew Hubbard, Ally Hubbard, Kloe Sniegowski, Abby Hubbard