The younger vines are pushing their way to the fruit wire. The vines in the pictures were planted last spring and should produce fruit in a couple seasons. Vines can be injured in various ways; the most common over the last few seasons has been the cold temperatures. Currently we are pruning out the old wood to promote the growth of the buds we had covered with dirt. After the old wood is pruned we tie the canes to the fruit wire to try to control the placement of the fruit. If the fruit is not uniform in the fruit zone it is hard to manage the fruit throughout the season.
The grapevine buds are compound buds each containing three buds. The primary bud contains the most flower clusters, the secondary fewer clusters, and the tertiary bud contains no flower clusters. The three buds are varying in cold hardiness. The primary bud is least cold hardy, the secondary is a bit hardier, and the tertiary is most cold hardy. The picture above is of two of the three buds pushing out of a cane that was buried in the dirt. In regions where the temperature does not damage the buds, the secondary and tertiary buds are normally plucked off early in the growing season to prevent crowding of the fruit zone.
The weather has continued to be dry enough to keep moving soil back to the aisle. In the back and forth passes up and down the aisles certain things stand out. Notice the picture of the vine with a rock stuck in the trunks. This picture tells a story of the site and previous seasons. I will point out a few of the more notable ones. First, the rock stuck in the trunks from the hill up plow moving dirt to cover the most susceptible areas to cold damage. As the dirt was plowed to cover the vines, a rock got lodged in a couple of the trunks. Quick location lesson: in cold climate regions growers use “spare parts viticulture” which is multiple trunks of varying age. The reason for this is that if one or two trunks are damaged, there are still options for the vine to produce fruit. The biggest trunk in the middle is one that needs to be removed and a younger one will replace it. The biggest trunk is around 4 year old wood; the next biggest canes that are brown are two year old wood; the thinnest lightest colored canes are one year old and will have buds that produce fruit. Remember, fruitful buds come from one year old wood.
The weather this month has been very cooperative, allowing us to move dirt away from the vines much sooner than previous seasons. The picture of the disc was taken before the dandelions pushed out of the ground. The winter was tolerable until February 14 when the temperature dropped to 23 degrees below zero. The buds of the European grapevine are not hardy enough to handle such extreme temperatures. Therefore we are waiting to prune until the buds have pushed so we can assess the bud damage.
In cold weather, grape growers have to protect the vines from the cold. The graft union is the most susceptible to vine killing damage. At our farm we use soil to protect the graft union and fruitful canes. After harvest we tie canes to a catch wire and lay it on the ground next to the trellis. Next we plow dirt to cover the canes and graft union. After the threat of negative temperatures we remove dirt and bring up the canes. The canes are up out of the dirt and ready to be tied to the fruit wire for the season. The picture is of the implement we use to pull the first passes of dirt back into the aisle.
The first days of May bring rain that April didn’t.
It’s the first Monday in April and I am sitting at a screen not a steering wheel because of constant precipitation. This time of year when the rains hit we keep equipment out of the vineyard to prevent rutting of the aisles. I figure it a good time to introduce myself. My name is Chris Fluri; I am the vineyard manager at White Birch Vineyards. My vineyard experience until this location has been west of the Mississippi. I tended vines in California and Washington State before New York. The main difference between growing grapes on this side of the Mississippi is keeping the vines protected from the damaging winter temperatures and dealing with the relative humidity during the growing season. In the months to come I will give an insight to the different practices and techniques between the growing regions.