Friday, 30 May 2008

Frost recovery, cutting back etc.

So I've just finished going round all the vines cutting back (in fact completely off in most cases) the growing shoots. A lot of them look like they did in late winter after I'd pruned of last year's cane now. It's been a massive setback this frost damage but in most cases there are small buds ready to take over this year's growing already showing on the scion (the bit where the rootstock meets the grafted vine).

Apparently spraying with water that night can avoid frost damage in the morning, something I'll look in to further if another one is forecast - this one struck after a dry spell so the vines had fresh, tender growth that was quite dry, which seems to be a perfect condition to get the damage in.

Already the ants have started building their nests up the tubes, one had reached about 6" by this morning - it has been duly marked for ant powdering. It'll be nice to get the grow tubes off eventually, they're a pain to take off and on with the little wire I've got to secure them in place, but necessary of course.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008


Checked vines yesterday afternoon and to my horror a lot of them had withered, darkened and in some cases almost completely dried up:
This was a real shock - it was only the week before last when they were all fresh, healthy looking young vines.

I had to wait until this morning to go down and try and rescue them as I was having a barbeque with my uncle, cousin and dad at the time.

Anyway, I've now gone through the whole plot with my mower including a bit of ground above it and watered each one well with a hose (the mowing is in preparation for a spray of Roundup soon to hold the bindweed back - it's supposed to work best on young leaves and cut stems)
(foreground grass not mown above)

The sun came out afterwards:
And I had a bit of a rest:
(note flask and mug detail, important components to allotment breaks)

Funny how a nicely mown plot and the sun coming out can take your mind of the fact that most of your vines look like they've died...

So anyway, hopefully they'll make some sort of recovery. If growing tips have died out I'm hoping a shoot lateral might take over - or even maybe a new bud - that's slightly less likely as I recently went round and nipped off all the buds/shoots except for the best one, but you never know.

Going to keep an eye on those sunny spells from now on.

UPDATE: Pat H. on the Winepress forum has just informed me that it looks like frost damage... the course of action is still the same though - hope for the best - although I'm not too concerned about dry weather now. Thanks Pat.

Friday, 16 May 2008

First Post - One Year In

So here's a picture of the beast:

125 vines, Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder Blauer if you're of the Germanic persuasion) on SO4 rootstock. I was given a choice of three Pinot Noir varieties by the supplier, Vigo, and went for a type with a slightly tighter bunching but better aromatic qualities. The tighter bunching means I'm more suceptible to certain diseases, being that there's less free air flowing around the grapes, but I believe in taking risks to achieve a higher quality product, at the end of the day.

The SO4 rootstock is also a sort of all-round perfomer, as far as I know, and can handle slightly damp or waterlogged soil, which is ideal for me as I'm on siltly loam which turns to fairly heavy clay with sand about 1-2 feet down. And of course I am in England so it does rain a lot... saying that though, I did recently hear though that the UK receives equivalent amounts of rainfall and sunshine as other parts of Europe, it's just that we complain about it a lot more.

Soil tests revealed that I have fairly good nutritional components in all the major chemical areas... except for one, which I can't remember the name of now, except that dressing the soil with well-rotted horse manure should sort it out. I did experience a bit of leaf yellowing last year that I'm hoping this will sort out. As of yet though this year, I haven't got round to sourcing some cheap enough.

So, winter '07 I took a deep breath and cut all the vines down to 2/3 buds. These have all happily budded and sprouted this year (apart from one that's just got a couple of little leaves on it) and I've been going round nipping off all but the best shoots to just let one grow this year. According to one of my books, this should ensure that they all reach the top wire (about 5').

The bindweed has started making an appearance again (the plot's riddled with it) so I'm considering executing it all with Roundup soon... I bought a backpack sprayer last year and it's proved a practical, if not eco-freindly, way to manage the weeds. I did try weeding by hand to start with, but my Dad and I got through them at about a rate of 1m/hour. Considering there's about 140 metres of rows this just wasn't practical.