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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bud Break 2014

It almost gives you the same sensation as waking up Christmas morning and wanting to see the presents under the tree. It has been discussed with anticipation all through the winter. The pruning has to get done......before bud break. The spraying has to be done.....by bud break. The trellis needs to be repaired.....all by bud break.

Like a clock ticking, the calendar keeps moving along and eventually you get to the time when winter is officially over, and the chance of a killer frost is behind you. Of course all these projects didn't get done. Maybe the To Do list was overly ambitious, or maybe there were too many other things to do.....after all, bud break hadn't come yet and there is always tomorrow.  Intermittent cold weather or rain always seemed to get in the way. It would have been nice to have two weeks in the 50's during December, January, and February. But it didn't happen. And as many of you are aware, I spent plenty of time dealing with livestock issues.

Regardless, with all the work still to do, there now is even more ahead in the very immediate future. When we did dormant pruning, we left extra buds on the canes in case we had severe winter injury. Now we need to prune these extra buds away in order to obtain "balanced vines". On the Petit Verdot , they need to be trained by selecting cordons and tieing them into place. For our Cabernet Sauvignon, we are in a "height stage", where one trunk needs to be selected from several emerging from the grafted knot that we will allow to grow to the 2nd wire. And all this needs to be done before our shoots get too long, and send out their tendrils that will fight us even more in the trimming process. Excessive shoot growth means energy is going to all the wrong places on the vine, instead of making that nice balance between photosynthesis and fruit growth.

This is also the time to do some required book work. Rates and ratios from last year have to be studied regarding the sprays we used. Then I have to place a seasonal order in with the local Farm Service to make sure the chemicals are available when we need them.  To complicate matters, I upgraded my sprayer this past Fall, to an Air Blast Sprayer, which sounds like a jet engine strapped to the back of the tractor when it operates. It takes the fluid pesticide and pulverizes the droplets to an extremely fine spray and blasts them across several rows in each direction.  The fan lifts the leaves up and mists their tops and bottoms. It even manages to squeeze its way in between the hanging grapes in their loose bunches which will help prevent bunch rot. I have no idea what the spray rates are for this machine, so I will have to go out and practice with a tank  of water before I pour gallons of chemicals in the tank for an actual spraying.

This year I also want to fertilize the vines. After last year's harvest there was a small depletion in soil nutrient level. This needs to be replaced, and the decomposing organics in the cover crop don't satisfy this need. Applying some 10-10-10 will likely be my fertilizer of choice to enhance the macronutrients . There is no easy way to put this down under the trellis wire. A cup of fertilizer must be applied to each vine, sprinkled in a ring 12" to 15" away from the trunk. It is a laborious job.


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