Gophers in West Sonoma County are stuff of legends…in some places they have eaten 1/3 of new planted vines. They are a constant nuisance and something they don’t tell you about much when you start a vineyard. So…they get trapped and hopefully the population declines over time.
Well, this time of year I really hate them because they like tender new shoots from young vines that are producing grapes for the first year…after I have carefully tended them for almost 3 years. As you can see in the picture they killed this vine just yesterday with grapes still hanging.
Hate to say this out loud…but I hope to say RIP to this gopher later in the day.
2012 – 18
2014 – 40
2015 – 55
2016 – 33
2017 – 25 as of 8/5/17
So, for any of you that have followed my blog you know that when we originally planted our Pinot Noir in 2010 the nursery accidentally included a little over 50 Merlot and 5 Chardonnay bench grafts. We didn’t realize what the Merlot were until our second harvest in 2013. The last 2 years we have made Merlot wine…but it is very difficult to handle them in the vineyard as they are spread out over many rows. (The got mixed up in our planting process). So…we decided to graft them over to the Pommard clone. In Part 1 I showed how we cut off last years canes during pruning and put them in our extra refrigerator…so what is next?
1 -Take them out of cold storage (~36F) for a day and soak one end in water.
In the picture below you can see the buds on the canes. These will be used for bud grafting.
2 – Hire a grafter…seriously, for many other varieties the success rate is >98% but for Pinot Noir you are lucky to get 90% and for those who don’t know what they are doing much less.
3 – The grafter will cut off the trunk of the vine about 2′ above the ground.
4 – Then they notch the trunk on two sides and notch out two buds from last years canes.
5 – They then place the buds into the notches and hold them in place with tape.
6 – You then cover with a grow tube to keep direct sunlight off them.
7 – Lastly, you wait about three weeks when the canes should appear and you can take the grow tube off. You may or may not get any grapes, but the important part is for it to grow strong this year so it can be pruned into shape next spring.
Why in my first picture I have grow tubes with and without red tape? The red tape denotes the bud grafts and the normal grow tubes are replants that gophers/mowers/trimmers killed the previous few years.
So…I had pre-pruned the vineyard earlier to make it easier to see where to prune…and to delay my final pruning. Above you can see for cane pruning you leave 2 healthy canes from the previous year and cut off all the rest. Below you will see that the canes are shortened such that the canes when tied to the wires don’t touch. It is hard to estimate, so normally I tie them to the wires and then trim one of the canes if I left them to long.
For me this year looks like my “wire will be full” (all of the vines have 2 canes to tie to the wire. Hopefully we will have a good fruit set and a large quality harvest in 2016.
BTW…what is nice to see in 2016, six years after initial planting, is that the trunks are getting larger and we did a good job last year of keeping the correct canes during thinning in 2015 for use in 2015! Hope that makes sense to all reading. Basically, anything you do as far as pruning/thinning/spraying the previous year you get to see the results the next year.
This picture shows the rows now pruned and ready to be tied. I will remove the piles of canes in the next week and mow the grass so I can begin to catch gophers earlier this year before they get out of control!
The last two winters we have had a Red Tail Hawk come visit Turtle Vines. It sits on our vine row endpoints, jumps to the ground and hunts gophers and observes me from the trees weeding and pruning! Unfortunately the last two years I have only seen one…no mate.
This year, I saw my Hawk again in the vineyard about a week ago…again alone. But not for long…if you can see from the picture above we now have two Hawks!!! I’m hoping they are mating and we will have little ones flying around in the spring. Stay tuned for more Red Tail love stories!!!
OK, so if you have watched Caddy Shack you probably think gophers are cute and harmless. Well, here in West Sonoma County we would do anything to get rid of the little guys! They eat the roots of the grapevines. Let’s do a little math….it takes around 4 years until the vine is in full production. Eat vine I have makes about 1 bottle of wine…so if a gopher eats a full grown vine I lose about $100 of gross wine sales. Now they are not so cute. Last week I had to replace 93 vines….some from gophers and some that never grew well.
I have to hand water the vines until we start irrigating the entire vineyard in 2 months, a lot of work.
I had 7 vines left over that I planted in a nursery row.
Gophers started showing a few days ago (late January)…so time for a little trapping and hawk feeding. Have to get them now through end of March as they have babies in the spring.
January 30 – 1
January 31 – 2
February 1 – 0
Feb 2 – 0 (one was injured)
Feb 3 – 0
Feb 5 – 0
Feb 6 – 1
Feb 18 – 1 (Only 1 spot left at this time)
March 15 – 1 small one…they must have mated in February…bad!
March 25 – 4 – new record, with 4 traps
March 27 – 1…1Q – 11
April 1 – 1
April 8 – 1
April 16 – 3
A little vacation from gophering
May 3 – 1 (very big in section 1)
May 31 – 1 drowned in the pool, yes it really happened
As the end of the year approached, we needed to finish up some items before the rains hit. So, I got some help from Carmine Indindoli and his crew. We put in the gopher cage around the vineyard. It ended up being 1100 feet of wire that we put 3 feet into the ground with a foot sticking out. (so they don’t jump over the fence) At the same time we put in the basics of the irrigation system since we were using the same trench. Lastly, when it rained 4 inches last month we found that the driveways and house all drain to the same spot on the west end of the property. This caused a little erosion so we installed 5 drains along the edge of the field…..hope it works this winter!!!