Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mistakes Part 3

I bet you thought I'd run out of vineyard mistakes I made. Nope ... lots more to come.

Let's see where was I ....

Mistake #9
Not using grow tubes appropriately.
I've read several methods for using grow tubes. Some people swear by them others say they are a waste of time. I've seen research that shows that vines that have them grow faster, but things are about the same between vines with out tubes after about 3 years. Some growers remove them mid summer others keep them on all winter long. My experience has been it depends. When I kept them on some of the foch through out the summer and into the fall, most of those needed retraining. But some of the vines with out grow tubes had rodent damage. Frontenac vines that had them on over the winter suffered no ill effects. So here is the policy that I decided to follow. Any vines rated to be just barely hardy enough for your location, remove the tubes by mid to late July. If a vine is very hardy for your location, leave the tube on until it is trained to complete cordons. The main advantage I have found with grow tubes, is that it makes early training easier, herbicide application easier, offers protection from rodents over the winter. So would I use tubes again, but I would also be careful about using them on less hardy vines. I reserve the right to refine my position on this.

Mistake #10
Improper Stone size for mulch
I decided early on to use stone for vine much to control weeds. The first year I used weed fabric, and stones that were already in the gravel pit next to the vineyard. That was very inadequate. The next year I had washed gravel. This worked much better, and was a lot of work to put on the vines. But the gravel was too small in size, and weed seeds were still able to germinate in it. I have not put stone under the newest vines, since I have not had time to spread it. I do think the gravel was useful. Weeds under the stone mulched vines is much less than the unmultched vines. So I would use stone again, but I would use a much larger stone, at least an inch in diameter.

Mistake #11
Using high Cordon instead of VSP.
Most of my first vines I trained to a single high cordon. I have not noticed a signicant difference in the amount of work training VSP versus single high cordon. But I do see that VSP is easier to prune, easier to harvest from, and although I can't personally verify this, VSP produces lower acid grapes. My site is note overly vigorous, so VSP may work better for me than other sites. All of my grape planted the last two years are being trained VSP.

Mistake #12
Poor choice of Earth anchor for end posts.
There is a tool that can be attached to a tractor PTO to drive in the long helix earth anchors. If I had a tractor with a PTO shaft, I would have used those, but I do not. So I got the shorter helix anchors. Even the short anchors took me over a half hour each to put in. And many of those than pulled out. I finally found an anchor that can be used in stoney ground, and can be driven in with a hammer. It is called a fenox ground anchor. Much easier to put in than the helix anchors and non have pulled out so far. http://www.spectrellising.com/anchors/index.php

Upcoming mistakes subjects .....spraying mistakes, poor equipment choices, variety choices .... oh I have lots more ....

Monday, August 18, 2008

A dry month

The last 30 days of precipitaion (SVV pointed to by the black arrow.)

We are very dry again in the vineyard this summer. Fortunately, unlike last year, we did get a lot of early season rain in April, May and June. But we have been very dry since then. No significant rain in over a month. I will definitely have irrigation in place before next year. The image above is from NOAA's experimental precip page. http://water.weather.gov/

It shows the last 30 days at the vineyard, we have received about .25-.5 " of rain ... honestly I think that estimate is way too high. (the black arrow points to Sampson Valley Vineyard.) It's hard to tell because the arrow is too thick, but it is pointing to the light blue in Oconto County.

Veraison is spotty. The few clusters of foch I have hanging this year is about halfway, but the seedless concord have no color. I think things will start moving fast now.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

No signs of Veraison

Things are a bit behind this year (maybe a week or two.) As of August 10, there are no real sign of veraison so far. While not critical, we have been pretty dry lately. We could use a little rain. It won't do much good if it comes a week from now, but we could certainly use a bit now.

The high tunnel grapes are doing very well. Here is a photo from above:

Next year I hope to have a full crop. We'll see how things do over the winter.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Mistakes part 2

Okay now I'm up to vineyard mistake number 4. By the way I don't know how many of these I have. (or will have :)

Mistake 4. No soil test before planting.

Do a soil test the year before planting, and amend soil as needed. I did do a soil test in the second year. And discovered a significant potassium deficiency in the soils in Sampson. The first years of a vine's growth they really need to be babied. If the soil doesn't have right nutrients you will not see the growth needed in its first years of growth, and it will just take longer before you will be able to harvest a full crop.

Mistake 5. Planting too late in the spring.

Plant about 2 weeks before the average last frost. Okay this one may be debatable and only applies to root stock, not green house started plants. I've planted vines in 6 different years. In all years but one, I planted between May 10 and May 22. Typically last frost in the vineyard is around May 10. This year I planted near the end of April. This year's new plantings have done better than any other new plantings. I realize that one year is not a very large sample, but it will definetly be the philosophy I use in the future.

Mistake 6. No irrigation.

USE IRRIGATION!!!! This one has proven itself many times. I'm not saying you can't start a vineyard without irrigation, but there are huge advantages. here are a few:
-You will have a full crop sooner. I had a few vines that I was able to irrigate from when they were planted. The vine mass was several times that of unirrigated vines.
-avoid problems from drought. If I had irrigation last year, I would have been able to ripen my crop earlier, and they would have been higher quality. The vines would have also had time to harden off before winter, and I would not have lost the entire foch harvest for this year.
-you will have a method to avoid late spring frost, and early fall frosts. By using a sprinkler on nights that are predicted to get near 32F the latent heat of fusion from when ice freezes, can keep your vines shoots alive. It's will only buy you a few degrees, but that may be all you need.

Mistake 7. No deer protection.

Deer love young grape vines. Deer can eat back 3 months growth on new vines in an evening. When I eventually put in a solar electric fence, the deer left the vines alone.

Mistake 8. Underestimating the damage that Rose Chafers can do.

I tried to ignore the problem, then I tried some organic control methods. Finally I hit them with Sevin. After 6 years, I think I am finally starting to get a handle on this problem. I think the traps definitely helped this year, but future years are where I really hope to see their benefit. Next year I'm going t use the traps again, but I will also try Surround. Surround is the brand name for Kaolin Clay. Hopefully I can control the rose chafers entirely through organic means. If the Surround does not work, I will hit them with Sevin ... at least those vines not blossoming.

Wow .... I have so many more mistakes to list, but it's late .... I will probably continue this over the weekend or maybe next week.

Mistakes ... I made a few

This post is dedicated to putting down some of the mistakes I've made starting a vineyard .... okay the title says I made a few. That's not accurate. I made a lot!!! But I also learned a lot. And I'm still making them. But I hope others can learn from the mistakes I've made.

So here goes ... in no particular order, but I am numbering them.

Mistake #1 Not well thought out site selection.

Okay every book, every powerpoint I've seen, every article I read, all say the same thing; one of the most important decisions when starting a vineyard is SITE SELECTION. In general, I did pretty well, but I definitely would have done some things different. I have a major frost pocket in the south east corner of my oldest vines. I had thought there was a place for the cold air to drain, but I was just not careful enough.

I also planted on a fairly steep hill side. This in general is good, but for a first time vineyard, it would have been a lot easier on a flatter area.

Mistake #2 Improper root trimming when planting

Do not trim roots on new vines that are about to be planted. Maybe this seems obvious to some of you. It seemed obvious to me. But early in my vineyard I went to a talk by a very knowledgable person who had many years growing grapes in this climate. He demonstrated that new vine roots should be severely prunned. I recall that demo very well. This was just before my first and second year of planting vines. I carefully headed that advise. In nearly every case, the severely prunned roots on new vines produced poorer growth. One year I evendid a more controlled experiment. In that year I pruned some roots severely, and some not. Almost with out exception the vines with more roots did better the first years, and in the second years too.

Mistake #3 Too small and shallow holes for new vines.

Dig very deep large holes for the vines. Again maybe this is obvious. But in the same demo the person said that they don't even dig a hole. They just use a T-shaped bar and make a small hole maybe only a foot deep at the most. Again I experimented. Again I got far superior growth and vine survival. with very large deep holes versus the small holes. In fact this year I used a post hole digger like I did in 2003. Growth this year easily surpassed any other year for first year vines.

Okay, I've only listed 3 mistakes so far.... I have a lots more. I will continue to roll these out over the next few days and weeks. I hope anyone that reads these learns from my mistakes, and does some of their own research on how to avoid them.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Catching up

Catching upSt Pepin July 20, 2008

It's been a busy summer. But who isn't busy these days. I'm going to try to catch up on the last two months in this blog.

Starting in June.
We've had a good spring. It started out cool, but we got a lot of rain. The perfect prescription for recovering from last year's drought. We also had several windy days. Unfortunately some gusty days just after Memorial day did a number on the high tunnel cover.

High tunnel Memorial day weekend.

High tunnel on June 7, after the winds a day earlier.

Growth in the high tunnel June29

June 14, 2008 the Rose Chafers return!!! I knew they were coming. And sure enough right on schedule they were back. I wasn't sure if the cool wet spring and the long winter would slow them, but they were pretty much right on schedule. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I put out chafer traps this year with the hopes of avoiding some of the damage.
Rose Chafer traps stand gaurd over the vineyard.

The traps did not seem to be too effective initially. Some of last years plantings, and the new marquette plantings were taking on some damage. I decided to spray those vines with Sevin since they had no blossoms. I try to avoid using Sevin or any non organic pesticides, but the vines are nearly completely consumed with out strong intervention. Sevin is very toxic to bees, and should not be used on vines in blossom so as not to kill bees.

The 3rd year LaCrescent vines were also being attacked. These vines did have blossoms, so I did not spray them. Some of the vines sustained severe damage. About 10-20% of the 3rd year vines were significantly set back due to the Chafers.

Eventually the traps did seem to make a dent in the chafer population. Overall, the damage to unsprayed vines was less than in previous years.

By the end of June the traps had trapped a significant number of chafers. In previous years, the chafers were crawling all over the milkweed by the end of June. This year, the milkweeds near the vineyard had almost no chafers on them.

Trap with thousands of chafers on June 29

LaCrescent Vine at the end of June (trained VSP)

I also spent a few days puting in 50 end posts for the trellis in the new vineyard. All vines in this vineyard will be trained VSP.
Endpost installed on June 29

We had good rain in the beginning of July, but intermitantly had a few dry periods too, overall moisture was adquate.
July 12, 2008Old Vineyard July 12

The new vineyard is coming along well. I started putting up trellis wire at line posts in July. Most of last years vines were emerging well from their growtubes. They were definitely behind where vines had been in the past at this stage, but at least they are recovering.

Last years plantings (Frontenac, LaCrescent, and Prairie Star)

Of the vines planted last year, the frontenac seems to be doing best. The best overall survival from last year was the Prairie Star, the lacrescent had the worst survival, but of the vines that did survive, they seem to be growing faster than the Prairie Star.Frontenac planted last year (picture from July 12 this year)

This year's Marquette has been most impressive. Only one or maybe 2 vines appear DOA, most of the rest have matched or exceed the growth of last years plantings of Frontenac, LaCrescent, and Prairie Star.

Marquette on July 12

The LaCrescent in their 3rd year have definitely suffered from the Rose Chafer attacks in June. The bugs were out while they were in blossom, and the few clusters on the vines definitely appear to be quite sparse. Many of the leaves on the larger vines show the effect of them also.LaCrescent on July 12

As I mentioned in earlier posts my Foch had a rough winter. Fortunately, I don't think I completely lost any vines. Unfortunately, most needed to be retrained. They are coming back fast, but it would be nice to get a full crop off all of the vines. Retrained Foch July 20
By July 20, many of the marquette were already well over 3 feet tall. Some approaching 4. I am rushing to get the trellis up in hopes that I will be able to get some trained in the first year. In most cases I would cut them back to 1 or 2 buds in the second year anyway, but I may keep a few trained on to the trellis if they have adequate growth.Marquette on July 20

Marquette on July 20

Retraining Foch on July 20

LaCrescent on July 20

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Posts for July

I did have activities in July, but did not post until August. Jump to August 6 blog entry to read about July activities. (predated for ease of searching)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chafers arrive June 14

Just a note that the first sign of Chafers in the Vineyard occurred on June 14 (posted after the fact and predated for ease in finding it.)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The 2007 drought aftermath. Many lessons learned.

3rd Year Lacrescent (Memorial day Weekend)

May 2008 has been a tough month in the vineyard. If you have read my blog postings from late last year, you know about the drought Sampson Valley Vineyard went through last summer. It may have been one of the worst droughts in many years. We did get the occasional shower, but nothing substantial. By the end of the summer, even though I had watered them several times, I had already lost about 10-20% of the newly planted vines, and my over cropped foch was struggling to ripen their fruit. We also had a few light early frosts that hit the foch especially hard. Even the non bearing vines. So it was really not a big surprise when this winter I suffered a very bad winter kill in the foch. Nearly all of my mature vines had severe winter damage. A large percentage of my vines that would have produced their first crop this year also had severe damage. On top of it all... we had a late frost in the middle of last week, that killed off the new shoots at the bases of the foch. I should know in a few weeks, how much will have to be replanted. Right now, I will see only about 5-10% of my expected foch harvest.

So what have I learned?
1. Irrigate!!! I hope to set up irrigation for my vines this year.
2. Don't over crop. In all honesty, I did not overcrop for a normal year, but we had a dry spring and a dry summer, and the vines simply could not handle the stress.
3. Frost protection. Hopefully the irrigation can also be set up to provide some frost protection. Of course the best frost protection is site selection ... A little too late in the game for some of my vines.

I do have some good news too.

The Lacrosse and St Pepin that had small crops last year are coming along well. I expect to see about the same crop size from them this year. I should have a small crop from the 3rd year Lacrescent. That will be their first fruit.

Cabernet Sauvignon in High tunnel (Memorial Day weekend)

The grapes in the high tunnel are doing extremely well. I didn't lose a single plant over the winter. I did have some bud damage, but that may have been due to some problems with the high tunnel heat cycling in the spring ... not sure exactly.
Rose Chafer Trap

It's almost time for my friends the Rose Chafers to start attacking my vines. We have had a screwy spring, so I'm not sure when they will make their appearance.

This year I have a new plan in store them. After doing a little research, I found out that they now have a trap for them. I got mine from Great Lakes IPM http://www.greatlakesipm.com/readytousekits.html

It was heart breaking to see my foch so damaged. So for what did these poor vines expend so much energy that should have been used to harden off their wood for winter? The answer is: the first commercial wine to be produced from Sampson Valley Vineyard.

2007 Maiden Voyage Blush

Captain's Walk Winery in Green Bay just released Maiden Voyage . A blush wine made from 50% Sampson Valley Vineyard Foch, and 50% Von Stiehl Foch (At least I think that is the proportions) I got the opportunity to try some Memorial Day Weekend. I must say, the winemakers at Captain's Walk did a magnificent job. Despite having non-ideal harvest parameters, they produced a very well balance blush wine. It had a delicate strawberry nose. It was not overly fruity, but you can definitely see the youth in the grapes from which it was made.

And on a personal side note: for those who are interested ... the wedding was wonderful ... the bride was beautiful .... and the groom was a very happy man.

Monday, April 28, 2008

200 Marquette Vines are Planted!

I planted 200 new Marquette vines this weekend. This brings the vineyard total to 863 vines. The Marquette vines will be the last vines planted in the vineyard for a few years. Marquette is the new (released in 2006) very highly regarded hybrid out of the University of Minnesota. Early reviews have described a more tannic and complex wine produced from Marquette. Check out http://www.grapes.umn.edu/marquette/enology.html and http://www.grapes.umn.edu/marquette/viticulture.html for more informtion about Marquette grapes.

I decided to use a large auger this year to plant, like I did in 2003 and 2004. When I use the big auger, I can dig a 9 inch diameter hole that is about 3 feet deep that penetrates the hard pan. The bigger hole allows me to keep more of the root system on the vines being planted. In 2005, 2006, and 2007, I used a smaller 3 inch auger that makes a 2 feet deep hole. None of these vines had as good growth as I did in 2003 and 2004. Of course 2005, 2006, and 2007 were fairly dry summers in the vineyard, so that may be related.

Bud Status

Vines are for the most part well behind last year's. The laCrescent seem to be the furthest along. It looks like I had excellent bud survival among the laCrescent. As of Saturday, it looks like bud break could occur in the next week with warm weather ... although it has been quite cold the last few days (snowed Saturday and today!) Tonight's low is expected to be in the mid 20s F. Luckily no vines have broken yet.

The foch have swollen buds, but are several days behind the lacrescent. Lacrosse and especially the Saint Pepin are barely beginning to swell.

The buds on the vines in the high tunnel have swollen quite a bit, and some buds near the bases of the trunks have already broken, but for the most part, they are still a week or more from bud break.

In Madison, (in my backyard) my foch has already had a few buds break, but the cold weather the last few days will keep the remaining buds from breaking until the end of the week.

Final Thoughts
My wedding is only 2 weeks away, so I won't be back in the vineyard until the end of May. My vineyard manager, will be handling early mowing and vine tying/training until then. Also, due to the late winter, windy weather when working at the vineyard, and limited time I have had to devote to vineyard activities this year, I did not spray lime sulfur. This puts me at greater risk to anthracnose, but that's the way things worked out.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Spring Prunning .... at last!!!

Vineyard on April 4, 2008

Wow ... what a winter! Things are finally warming up, and I was able to get my pruning done before my vines broke dormancy. Here is a quick synopsis of the winter at Sampson Valley Vineyard.

Vineyard on February 15, 2008

From about December 1, 2007 - March 30, 2008 we had substantial snow cover with the exception of about 1 mild week in January. During much of that time, the snow was a foot deep or more. The frost depth was quite low, so that when the snow cover finally melted in the last week and a half, the ground frost was also gone.

The coldest temperature recorded in the vineyard this winter -16F. Last year(2006-2007) it was -15F, and the year before (2005-2006) it was -17F. This year we had much more time spent below zero, and more often. We did not have many warm periods, with the exception of about a week or two in January, and we never got the long warm spells like we did in the last two winters.

High Tunnel update
Tunnel on March 1, 2008

Despite several long periods of below Zero Fahrenheit temperatures, the coldest the center of the high tunnel got was +12F. And near the edges (about a 1 meter in), we got to about +7F. During sunny Days in January and February, the temperature reached the 40s and 50s.

Early March with snow collected on the sides and roof of the high tunnel

As soon as March rolled around the lows were similar to earlier in the winter, but the high temperatures started sky rocketing. On sunny days, the temperature reached over 100F!!!

At this point I decided the end flaps needed to stay open. This kept the high temperatures even on very sunny days, closer to the 70s and 80s. Still warmer than I'd like, but better than 100F! I'll need to install some automatically opening vents for next winter.

An Open flap on the high tunnel to control high temperatures

I did most of the pruning in the high tunnel on Easter weekend (March 21-23).


My routine (non high tunnel) pruning this year was completed in 3 days ... April 2- April 4. Normally I would have had this done by the end of March, but the substantial snow cover set me back a couple of weeks.A LaCrosse vine pruned to a VSP trellis system.

In general things looked pretty good. I did not see any rabbit or other rodent damage. I had expected to see some, since I had a lot of rabbit damage in my backyard. Even along the paths to the vineyard, the boxelders and sumacs had much of there bark chewed off from about a foot off the ground to 2 feet up. However, the vineyard was pretty much untouched.

There was very little winter damage in the LaCrosse and StPepin. The Landot Noir showed a significant amount of winter damage, but no more than other years .... I really need to pulls those out, and replace them with Foch. The Foch vines that did not produce last year, looked pretty good. There was some damage to the heavily/over cropped Foch from last year. It remains to be seen how much. I did prune those pretty severely, but possibly not severe enough.

I should be able to get a small crop from the LaCrescent this year. They did not have a great year last year due to the drought. But hopefully, they can make up for lost time this year.
A 3rd year prunned LaCrescent vine.

I still don't know how many of the new plantings from last year made it. I planted 100 each of Prairie Star, LaCrescent and Frontenac. Already in the fall I know I had lost several to the drought, so it will be interesting to see how many survived the winter.

Next week I hope to start preparing for my 200 Marquette vines that I will be planting. I have been hearing very good things about Marquette. I have had the oportunity to taste a Marquette wine from New York this past winter. It did not blow me away. None the less, with such good word of mouth from others who have tried some of the Minnesota produces Marqutte wines, I thought it was definitely something to plant. These will be the last vines I plan on planting for a while (except to replace dead or unproductive vines). This will bring my vine total up to almost 900 vines or about 1.5 acres.

My todo list for the next month ...
- dormant spray lime sulfur to control anthracnose.
- till and prepare for marquette
- more trellising
- setting up drip irrigation for high tunnel
- look at putting in a well and irrigating the outside vines.

Monday, January 21, 2008

-12F and -15F ... 40 hours below zero

The low Friday night reached -12 F and the low Saturday night was -15F. We did not even get above zero on Saturday ... about 40 hours straight of below zero F temperatures. We do have a good snow cover, which helps some. I am concerned about my stressed Foch vines. Normally they would survive -15F weather easily, but they went into the winter fairly weak. We will see what happens come this spring.

The high tunnel only got down to about 15 F .... WOW! ... much warmer than I had planned. I am anxious to see what the spring brings for it. My next concern, is that the vines in the tunnel will break bud too early. Hopefully that risk won't occur until the beginning of April.

The rabbits are attacking my vines in my backyard. They chewed right through one, and damaged another severely. I have had snow cover in my backyard since the beginning of December, so food may be scarce. The vineyard is probably doing better.... there are a lot of owls in the area, and there has been periods with no snow cover, so the rabbits may not be as hungry as they are in the city. I'll need to scout the vineyard for animal damage in a few weeks.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Deep freeze

We have hit a bit of a cold stretch. We have been sub zero fahrenheit
since Friday evening. This has been the longest sub zero stretch the
vineyard has seen since the vineyard was planted in 2003.

Up until last night, the coldest the vineyard has seen this winter was

Last night was near -10. I should have more precise minimum
temperatures when I check my max/min thermometers in a couple of weeks.

Hopefully the hightunnel is doing its job.