With an urban vineyard, spring not only applies to the new year’s growth but also symbolizes the sprouting of our social “vining” for the year. Since the introduction of the vines to the front yard, spring is now my wife’s favorite time of year. As daylight is extended and the So Cal weather “reclines” toward the consistently sunny, the vines sprout new growth and it kicks of our annual front yard parties. These events are turning out to be popular with our friends. With a few years of gatherings under our belt, the vineyard seating area is now affectionately referred to as the “grotto” by friends, sans the clothing optional water feature (and activities) of another infinitely more famous “grotto”.
In preparation for urban vining both in viticulture and city-culture however, there are always a few tasks to take care of right before spring. This year was no exception.
Every year there are two primary adversaries that I must fight against, powdery mildew and the ubiquitous (here in Southern California) glassy winged sharp-shooter (GWSS). The latter posing the most significant threat to a small endeavor like mine. To prepare for these I have concocted my own combination of Surround WP, Stylet and Neem oil which seems to be working thus far. Reminder: I am by no means any kind of authority on viticulture (nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn Express)…Thus any observations, statements or claims of fact about viticulture may be slightly, or grossly, inaccurate; however the facts of my experience are accurately related. If you are a beginner, a prudent follow up prior to planting your own urban vines, would be to research books and Wine Maker Magazine archives, visit local wineries to pay for a tour and ask questions, and finally, ask questions on forums, such as WineMakingTalk.com.
Surround WP is an organic treatment, composed of Kaolin clay that acts as an irritant to the GWSS making the vines an unpleasant place to reside. Supposedly it will help to eliminate nymphs (baby GWSS) if eggs were laid on the leaves as well. I have added the Neem oil in the hope that it will further help to repel the GWSS as a double whammy with the Surround WP.
The very first year, I had a lot of problems with powdery mildew and treated it with Serenade which seemed to do the trick, keeping the mildew in check. After some research I found Stylet oil and have been using it ever since without any noticeable incidents of powdery mildew (though it is much harder to tell now when the vines are all white from the Surround WP). The first Stylet treatment is sprayed on the ground around the vinesto neutralize any spores from the previous season that may exist. Not sure if this is necessary but read about it and decided to give it a go. I usuallyl apply this treatment in the beginning of March. The second treatment is a combination of Stylet, Surround WP, and Neem; applied once the shoots are about 3-4” in length. After that, this combination is applied every 3-4 weeks.
The first bud break seemed early this year compared to past, occurring on March 24th. To illustrate the rapid growth the image above is the same bud/shoot 8 days later on April 1st.
It is now a month later and most all the buds are coming in with the biggest concern from last year seemingly alleviated. The cordon on one of the vines last year only produced 2 shoots. The concern was that it might be Pierce’s Disease; however it didn’t make sense that the shoot that formed from the bud farthest from the trunk was quite vigorous. I had suspected that I had not pruned the leaves around the cordons enough the year before. Having read that the buds chosen for the following year need to get sunlight the year prior, I decided to test the theory. Last year I pruned to ensure some sunlight filtered onto the buds close to the cordons. Letting in a little light seems to have paid off, as this year that same cordon has six shoots that have sprung forth.
As the front yard parties become more popular with our friends the yard has undergone yearly improvements to enhance the space. This year we came across some grape bunch outdoor lighting and added them to the actual grape vines. The confused looks of many walking by during the day are worth the $34 alone but surprisingly the lights look quite stunning, if not a touch Chernobyl like at night, now I just need a radioactive sign to put up next to our glowing grapes.
One final bit of news, the overall urban vineyard will be getting yet another improvement, a new house color. The current color, hunter green, has always seemed wrong for the home since we moved in…the grape vines and greenery in the yard are washed out because of the big green blob behind them. This year the vines finally get a backdrop that will allow them to stand out.
So far this year has sprung out to a great start. Next post I will surely show off the vines against their new backdrop but I will also talk a bit about the Syrah vine and my initial attempt at goblet training.