These past weeks, our vines have been soaking up all this beautiful sunshine and as a result, have kicked up their growing speed to high gear. Some, especially the l’acadie, are already reaching two feet high! Growing much faster than we anticipated, we decided to move ahead with installing the first wire on our trellis so the vines have something to support them in the coming months as they continue to grow.
Armed with their handy-man belts, Laurent and our close friend Joe began by pulling the 12.5 gauge tempered, high-tensile steel wire down the rows.
Then, they attached the wire to the end post at the far end using fencing stapes and a gripple wire joiner (explained in more detail below). Considering our climate and the variety of grapes we have planted, we decided to install the first wire at the height of 3 feet. So, walking back up the row, they attached the wire to each post at the height of 3 feet using a fencing staple, or u-shaped nail. Cleverly, to determine where 3 feet was on each post, they measured 3 feet onto themselves and marked it with a coloured piece of tape. Then standing next to each post, they simply hammered in the staple at the height of the coloured tape.
While the wire was being installed by Joe and Laurent, the rest of us continued battling the weeds. Jessica (one of my closest friends) and Sheila (who came out once again to generously offer her help) both helped advance our positioning in this ongoing war. Importantly, Scarlet was assigned insect patrol (to which she served dutifully).
Despite it being one of the rainiest Junes we’ve had on record, our vines are growing!
In general, the vines all look happy and healthy! The only problem we seem to have is that about 5-10% of the Seyvel Blanc vines did not make it. When planting, we noticed that some of their roots were looking a little sad, being small and black, but we decided to plant them anyway and give them a chance. Of these vines, some survived but were just a little slower at sprouting, while others simply didn’t make it. But aside from these few Seyvel Blancs, our overall vine survival rate has been really high. All that love we gave when planting them must have paid off!
But, the vines have not been the only thing growing. This past month has been the ‘battle of the weeds’ and we’ve only been able to get a glimpse of just how much work it will take to win this battle. As it is important that young vines get all the nutrients they need from the soil and because we do not want to use any harsh chemicals in the vineyard, we are left with weeding by hand, which is taking hours, and hours, and hours. Fortunately, we’ve been able to hire a little help for this on the weekends… but we still have a way to go. After one successful round of digging up all the weeds by their roots, however, we should be well on our way to victory.
In addition to the weeds growing, we’ve also been worried about mildew, especially with all the rain we’ve had these past few weeks. Powdery and downy mildew are fungal diseases that affect the leaves of the vines and are two serious threats that our vines will face in the Fraser Valley, particularly because this mildew thrives in cool and humid climates. Although the majority of the vines look fairly healthy, the pinot gris appear to have the beginnings of some powdery mildew growing, which is really not much of a surprise. We are well aware that this variety is susceptible to mildew, but wanted to try them anyways seeing as this is probably the only variety that most people will have ever heard of. So, to manage the mildew organically, we’ve come up with a spray plan that will involve a mixture of potassium bicarbonate and kumulus (sulphur) every two weeks to kill and also protect the vines from these mildews.
This past month we’ve had to ward off a third threat from our vineyard – a deer! We rarely have deer that come all the way down the mountain and into our property, but for some reason this one was curious and wanted to check things out. Deers apparently love the fresh new buds on grape vines, as well as the fruit when there is some. Some vineyards are forced to build fences to protect their vines from deer, but we decided not to because deer are almost never seen here. We began to worry that this little guy would come one morning and eat all what we planted. But, thankfully, we haven’t seen him since.
A last update I should note is that we received our Epicure vines from Vancouver Island last week and spent Canada Day (July 1st) planting them. Again, our good friends Sheila and Barbara helped us tremendously as we planted our last vine for the year! Now, with planting complete, we can focus our energy towards winning the battle of the weeds, spraying for mildew, and finishing the trellis system.