I went out to my small vineyard this morning to water and check the progress of the vines. After planting, I had covered each vine with a mound of straw. In communication with Sam Caselli at Novavine, I learned that the planted vines do not need to be mounded over with soil – straw will do just as good of a job insulating them from extreme temperatures.
I visit the site every other day to water and have been peeking under the straw to see how things are coming along. Initially, I was concerned because five or maybe six vines (of 44) were not showing any signs of budding. Today, I am happy to report, I have bud break on all 44 vines.
Normally, in an established vineyard, bud break occurs in the spring as the ambient temperatures rise and the plants receive increased sunlight – around March in the Northern hemisphere and September in the Southern hemisphere. These vines, however, were kept dormant at the nursery until a few weeks ago. This is achieved by keeping them in a cold, dark place. As soon as they were shipped, they began to come out of dormancy and at the time of planting some were already budding.
At this point, though, most are pushing robust shoots. While there is one straggler in the bunch, most are starting to take on a green color. In the previous year, the grafts accumulated starches which will support the development of the shoots until they can begin photosynthesis.
For this reason, I have been loosening the straw mounds to allow the buds to develop into straight shoots. I still want to protect these delicate structures from the heat but I want them to start getting more light. This may be an overabundance of caution, but as they develop a more green color, I will expose them completely.
The main goals for the rest of this season is to put in an irrigation system and ensure these vines get established and thrive. The first goal should be easily achieved with supplies from a larger home improvement store. I’ll write more about this once It’s been done.
Towards the latter goal, I will need to get my soil analyzed. It’s rather varied and since this is a hillside, fertility may be an issue. In the coming weeks, I’ll take some samples from around the site and send them off for analysis. Based on those findings, I’ll decide on the type of fertilizer these vines will need – if any.
Another important thing is to determine the depth of my soils. To do this, I’ll have to drive in some long stakes or rebar as deep as possible. This will be quite a physical task – not so much the driving in, as the extraction.
As I mentioned in my first post about this vineyard, I received 70 benchgrafts from Novavine. I put in 44, discarded one and planted 14 into four-gallon planters as backups (in case some of the vines in the vineyard fail). That leaves 11 vines sitting in a bucket of water in the shade and pushing nice green leaves. I would hate to see them go to waste.
If any Los Angeles area wine bloggers have the space, I can share these grafts with those interested. A very large planter might suffice for decorative purposes, but the recommended spacing is no closer than five feet between vines and no closer than 6 feet between rows.