Well, as the vines are making great progress, I can’t forget to continue to do maintenance to keep the vines in good shape.
First, I had about 250 vines that were to small to grow grapes, so I two-budded them down to the ground and put on grow tubes. The end of May the vines were large enough to remove the grow tubes and when the “trunk” is about pencil width I cut them off at rebar height to encourage them to grow thicker.
In addition, it is now time to begin weeding the area right next to my weed cloth….what fun. Although a lot of work, it is much better than without the weed cloth.
Last year I had a few vines reach the top of the “highway stakes” that are 6 feet tall. Now…..some are already 7 feet tall and it is only May 28th! Ideally you want the shoots to have 14 nodes places where the leaves are connected) so that enough photosynthesis will occur to ripen the grape clusters. If you have to many…..the wine will taste herbaceous…..to few and the wine will not ripen.
My goal in planting the vineyard with 5 foot rows and vines 40 inches apart with root stock 101-14 (designed for small growth) was to grow plants that would be smallish and have intensely flavored grapes. Looks like early on the ground is very fertile. What to do???? I may have to hedge the top of the vines to keep the growth in control as I have another 6-8 weeks of the growing season.
Amazing how fast Sauvignon blanc grows in comparison to Pinot noir. Both of the vineyards are on 101-14 root stock (small growth) but the Sauvignon blanc in the front planted last year is growing like crazy. Most of the growth is in shoots, but there are some small grape clusters on each vine, perhaps enough for a little wine but most likely grape jelly. I anticipate next year she will have a bumper crop!
Just because I’m organic does not mean I don’t have to spray…..in fact being organic the chemical you can use have to be sprayed every 7-10 days instead of around 14 days in a conventional vineyard. The biggest issue I have being in the Russian River Valley (Sonoma County) is Powdery Mildew, so I either have to spray Stylet Oil or Serenade. In addition, in the spring I spray copper to enhance bloom. I can use it for foliar spraying as well, but since my vines are very healthy this year I won’t have to do that.
I purchased this small sprayer that was designed for an ATV from a firm in the mid-west and then had a local person make a custom trailer and plenum. I tried it on Thursday May 24th and did about 10 rows before the wheels literally fell off (see last picture). I had to back pack spray Friday….started at 6am to get it done. Off it went and on Saturday got some very beefy wheels and will try it again this next week. In addition we changed the plenum a little to enhance the air flow. Hopefully this will now ruffle the leaves sufficiently to evenly coat them as I will have a full canopy later in the year and back pack spraying won’t work well.
After shoot thinning, shoot positioning is the next in a line of process steps to hopefully ensure that all the grapes ripen evenly in the vineyard.
Ideally you should position the shoots so they are at least 3” apart along the fruiting wire and not crossed with another shoot. This will allow uniform sun to each grape cluster for ripening later in the summer. Since we only have 4 shoots per vine and 40 inches between vines…..should be easy. However, since we I’m trying to do this ourselves, it will take time to adjust the canopy wires and attach the canopy clips, all 3200 of them.
Anyone care to take a walk in the vineyard in the next few weeks with me…..just show up around 9 AM for an unspoiled walk
The picture below left is of very healthy but unruly vines. On the right is after I have positioned the shoots and installed a “C” clip to hold the vines in place. Takes me about 20-30 seconds per vine, so about 20-30 hours and I’ll have the vineyard all set!
Well, I was walking the vineyard today and noticed some of our bunches had flowered and they had turned into grapes (most folks call them BB’s). The key now is that for the next few weeks we can’t get a hard rain….that will ruin the process and we will lose the precious few grapes we hope to have this year…..and then all of you reading this won’t have any wine to drink from our 2012 vintage!
Joey always kids me that our vineyard looks like a golf course. Not quite, but for a few weeks in June it will look very pretty! As you can see the weed cloth and mulch are holding up OK under the vine rows. On the first 20 rows I have weed whacked the edges and then mowed the clover, and done shoot positioning. I think except for when grapes are on the vines, this is the prettiest time in the vineyard.
Work so far in May.
May 3 – 2 hours – 1 hour mowing, 1 hour weeding
May 4 – 4.5 hours – 1 hour mowing, 1 hour weeding, 1.5 hours Spraying (16 gallons)
May 7 – 2 hours tying
May 8 – 6.5 hours – 1.5 hours mowing, 1 hour weeding, 4 hours tying/wires
May 9 – 8 hours + 12 hours hired, tree work, weeding, mulching
May 10 – 8 hours chipping, getting gates, mowing, clean-up
May 12 – 4 hours – 2 hours tying highway stakes, 2 hours shoot positioning
May 14 – 6.5 hours – 2 hours spraying (21 gallons), 3 hours getting supplies, 1.5 hours wires in front and shoot positioning
May 15 – 8.5 hours + 3 hours donated – shoot positioning
May 16 – 6 hours + 8 hours hired – shoot positioning and 4 hours clean-up
May 17 – 2 hours – watering 6 hours
May 18 – 2 hours – watering zone 4/fertilizing zone 1
May 19 – 4 hours – gopher class and fertilizing zone 2/watering zone 3
May 21 – 2 hours – shoot positioning
May 22 – 8 hours + 14 hours hired – fencing, weeding, chipping
May 23 – 4 hours – spraying with new sprayer, but it broke….mowing
May 24 – 2 hour – spraying with backpack sprayer and gopher duty
May 25 – 3 hours – backpack spraying (30 gallons @ 1oz/gal), front vines and clean-up
May 28 – 4 hours – Removing grow tubes
May 29 – 3 hours – removing grow tubes and weeding
May 30 – 2 hours – c-clips and shoot positioning
May 31 –