Although it's a considerably larger scale than vegetable gardening, I thought there might be some interest in hearing about what happens seasonally in a vineyard. So here's my first monthly wrap up (based on my very limited exposure so far!) of some of the tasks that I've been involved with in the vineyard to assist in the production of premium fruit for wine.
With budburst having happened in September, the vines are now growing vigorously and just starting to flower as can be seen in the photo above. In fact everything in the vineyard is growing vigorously due to lots of rain and the temperature starting to climb!
At this stage the vines are growing upwards as they have been trained with careful pruning in Winter, but are also growing suckers out of their bases and stems, which need to be removed so that the plants focus their energy on growing fruit. Perhaps in a large-scale vineyard this would be done with a clever machine, but here it's done manually using a rubber glove impregnated with rough grit on one hand and a pair of secateurs in the other. It's hard work, moving from one vine to the next, bending down and standing up again. Every vine has to be attended to, and it's important to do it properly as it is then done a second time a few weeks later to make sure that nothing has grown back again, so getting as many of the buds the first time makes the second pass much easier!
Once the vines have taken off upwards and started to get top-heavy, the wires on the trellis system must be lifted up to support the canes. This reduces the chance of breakage in strong wind, as well as opening up the canopy to allow airflow to reduce disease opportunity and providing sunlight to the developing fruit. The trellis has a clip system on each side that holds a wire at the bottom of each supporting post (approx 10m apart) that must be unhooked and lifted up and past all the overhanging canes, which are gathered up by the wire that is then hooked in to a higher clip. Again, this is done for every row in the vineyard, with some of the more vigorous varieties having two wires on each side allowing for continued growth over the coming months.
A big risk at this time of year is mildew, which occurs when there is an increase in temperature combined with rain. The vines are sprayed with a preventative "cover" that reduces their risk of attack. I haven't had to do this task yet, as my tractor skills and confidence are still "under development" and some areas of vineyard are quite steep, but it's probably the most important job in the vineyard at this time of year.
In order to get off my tractor L Plates though, I've been slashing grass between and around the rows for presentation, ease of working in the rows and to reduce competition for the vines. In areas which aren't traversed too much there seems to be about a three week growing/cutting cycle (which means I'll be back out there this week cutting it again) but for the areas where presentation is important, it's about one week! It's hard to imagine that until two weeks ago I had never mown a lawn in my entire life!!