We have had apricots in our orchard for enough years to be accustomed to freezing weather in the spring after the trees have budded out. It happens rather routinely here on the High Plains. We quite frequently will have peaches, but we don’t get a crop of apricots many years. The reason is that the tiny buds come out as the weather begins to warm in the spring thinking that this is the time to sprout leaves and buds for fruit. But if a cold spell comes through in April it can kill that new growth and new life; and then there is no fruit all year.
That is why we actually want to discourage our vines from budding out too soon. How soon is too soon? That is the question that only God knows each year. We just get ready for the ride and play along.
This is what some of our vines looked like at the end of March, 2013. Not very interesting, you say. Where in the world are the leaves? You can see a little bud at the top of cane, but it is rather tight. That is actually the way we wanted the vines to look at the end of March.
Different growers have different strategies, but ours is late pruning and discouraging the blooming too early. We have long hot summers and plenty of time for the vines to grow and produce fruit. We don’t expect harvest till mid-August and on through September. We will still have plenty of time to get the sugar where it needs to be for wonderful wine grapes.
Here again we see — no leaves. But that is good, don’t worry about it. So let’s turn it into an opportunity to illustrate cordon pruning since otherwise this is a rather boring picture. Permanent horizontal extensions of the trunk are in place year after year with cordon pruning. Spurs along the cordon produce fruitful shoots with buds. A grower chooses how many spurs and then how many buds to leave on each spur. On our four foot cordons that might be ten spurs with two buds on each one. But that varies considerably between each variety of grape that we grow.
These vines look different. This year we are trying some cane pruning on certain varieties which is a new practice to us. These vines show cane pruning. Cain pruning requires annual replacement or renewal of one year old wood on the fruiting wire. As you can see the arched branches coming from the main truck demonstrate this practice. These canes are what produce the buds for fruitfulness.
These vines are Tempranillo which are cordon pruned.
Cabernet Franc here.
This is what I got My Honey, Cliff, for Valentine’s day. They are left-handed #10 pruning shears, just exactly what he was wanting. #10’s for my #10. He was soooo excited.
I’ll show you what my cheat notes look like. I wouldn’t be able to take a pictures of vines, take them home, put them on my computer, and then even come close to guessing what variety they were, that would be a little too advanced for me. We are growing more than twenty varieties. The little cheat notes on the poles even tells me when the vines were planted and what rootstock they are on.
Here’s some shots of Viognier. It is one of our early bud breakers, so it receives a lot of attention and planning when comes to when to timing of pruning.
As you can see these vines are not even pruned completely and it is the end of March. It could be a sign of not being diligent in the vineyard, but for us it is a sign that we aren’t sure that spring is really here to stay yet.
Lots of buds left. If we have a freeze and lose a certain percentage, we still might have some left.
Choice of rootstock is important to us in terms of how it affects the timing of blooming.
This row marked with “179” has had the pre-pruner run down the row. In order to wait till the last minute to prune, we use a large machine (see lots of pictures of the machine here) that runs down the rows cutting major chucks out of the work that needs to be done. Then human workers can go down the row and do the fine tuning pruning, but their work goes quicker than having to cut out those big chunks. This shot of row “179” shows vines that the pre-pruner has gone through. It also shows the ground cover between the rows to reduce the damage from sand in wind storms. It is dead now, so that it doesn’t rob the vineyard of the water that the grapes need.
We had another freeze after these pictures on the 9th of April and again another one on April 19th. More on freeze strategies coming. Wait till you see the helicopter.