Site Amelioration and Soil Preparation (bulletin #2)

 In Vineyard establishment

Many pre-plantings decision have permanent consequences, and mistakes can be costly. In this second bulletin of his vineyard establishment series,  Jonathan will share his wisdom on site amelioration and soil preparation. 

In this bulletin series Jonathan will share his wisdom on:

  • Site assessment – bulletin #1
  • Site amelioration and soil preparation – bulletin #2
  • Soil analysis and nutrient adjustments
  • Varieties, clones and rootstocks
  • Drainage and fencing
  • Vineyard planning and design, with consideration of mechanisation

The recent wet weather has seen the planting season get off to a slow start, delaying site preparations, but new vineyards are in safe hands with our head of establishment, Jonathan Rodwell and his team.

Bulletin # 2

Site Amelioration and Soil Preparation

The vineyard site is decided upon as an outcome of a detailed appreciation and understanding of many multiple factors.   We then arrive at another analytical phase and understanding how best we can maximize the site’s grape growing potential.

To what extent we can change this or improve this potential involves an understanding of the subtleties of place and nature and where inputs can provide positive changes and improvements.

The interaction of vine with site and soil and its outcome are driven by many factors, however we can look at it more simply as two halves:

  1. The above ground environment of the vine
  2. The soil (subterranean) environment of the vine

One will not work without the other. Both are complex and their interaction creates a unique symbiosis. To consider what interventions might maximise potential of site and soil, to improve it for the benefit of the vines, we need to look at some of the component parts – the site and soil. Read more here:


  • Wind: reducing strength of prevailing winds and the need to protect vines with windbreaks
  • Waterlogging: consider origins of water infiltration, and at what depth or type of drainage will be effective
  • Sunlight and temperature: considerations around shading (possibly peripheral) and temperature shift across a land parcel, including air drainage
  • Erosion and slope: potentially looking at terracing, slope modification or partial alternative land use which will support the vineyard environment.


  • Fertility: To what extent can this support the long-term health of the vineyard and can we improve this with supporting strategies (such as cover cropping, compost and animals)
  • Water holding capacity (WHC): Will natural field holding capacity support the vineyard or will irrigation be needed? Consider improvements in water retention through increasing organic matter and improving soil structure?
  • Nutrient Analytical Profile: What does this look like? Can we effect change with amendments as needed and at what depth?
  • Physical Composition (soil profile): Can this be modified, how does it present itself horizontally and vertically and will this be conducive to vine root environment ?

Pre-planting and site preparation decisions can have permanent consequences, and mistakes can be costly, so critical to have sound advice.  Jonathan can be contacted by email:

More about Jonathan:

Jonathan qualified from University College Davis, California, and has since gained over 40 years’ experience in viticulture and winemaking from all over the world – a true leader in his field. 
Jonathan has a deep scientific knowledge of grapevine biology and physiology, and a detailed understanding of soil fertility. With his knowledge of all the variables and the high capital investment, Jonathan and his team establish successful and productive vineyards, able to meet the required quality and yields, business objectives and desired end products. Each client receives a bespoke vineyard creation service and dedicated project manager. 

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