It’s the third summer out in the vineyard.
As I write this at the end of August we’ve seen nary a sign of powdery mildew or downey mildew. Jed was vigilant with spraying, and he was able to limit the amount of spraying with big chemicals by using a very dilute spray of hydrogen peroxide which just keeps the vines very clean. The hated Japanese beetles were pretty under control this year now that we knew not to use the beetle bags. The deer fence kept Bambi at bay, so no cursing about chewed vines in the morning.
We were glad we had installed our irrigation system this year, because there were plenty of weeks without enough rain, and we ran the system several times to keep the vines going. There was a lot of canopy management this year, but we managed to the vines from getting too tangled or too long. After three years, we were finally getting the hang of this vineyard thing.
So what’s up with calling this post ‘The Summer of Our Discontent”?
The third year in a vineyard is the year of the first harvest. It’s supposed to be a modest harvest, so we were advised to limit the number of grape bunches on a vine to just one. I’ve been growing things for many years, and I confess that I am one of those gardeners who hates pulling out seedlings in the spring. (In fact, I’ve been known to replant seedlings elsewhere in a garden, usually to little success.) So clipping off bunches of grapes that looked perfectly healthy was not easy. But I managed to do it without too much wincing.
Meanwhile, back in the saga of the winter dieback, the die back continued all through the summer and into August. By July nearly 600 vines had died. Half the vineyard. The very center of the vineyard was the hardest hit with over 90% of the vines gone in several rows. There was death in every row. I would be out there happily pruning away for several vines, and then there would be nothing but brown dead vine. Or worse, a live vine that was showing the first signs of wilting and dieback.
By August, vines that were fully grown and fully fruited were still experiencing dieback. We would dutifully cut the dead vine back and haul the carcass out of the vineyard. Over and over and over again. Today, I can see four more vines turning brown out in the vineyard. ARGHH!
There is some good news. About 300 vines have healthy root systems that shot up new growth. So we were back at year one with these vines, putting on grow tubes, and training cordon vines.
Still, that leaves us with about 300 dead vines. We placed an order for 500 replacement vines back in July. As the weeks go by, we start second guessing our decision. Should we try another root stock? Or switch to a white varietal in the middle? Maybe put more table grapes in since they seem to be hardier.
It has not been an easy summer. When you are out there doing the work, it is hard to look around at a vineyard that is so decimated.
Maybe we should just skip replanting altogether. It is, after all, the summer of our discontent.