So I break one little toe…

There were grapes here...

There were grapes here...

So, I go and break one little toe dashing for the crib in the middle of the night…. Then, about a week later, I hook the same toe on a table leg… I’m graceful like that.

For the next two weeks or so, it was difficult to walk around the house, let alone put on my vineyard boots and schlep up the hill to do any work.

As a consequence, my vines went untended and unwatered for three weeks. I dreaded what I might find when I was finally able to go up to the vineyard a few days ago.

To be honest, I was more concerned about the prolonged lack of water, even though my vines are on Paulsen rootstock, which is supposed to be drought-resistant (see the Herrick rootstock guide, here).

What I thought would be less likely was that my crop would go from this, to this:

When I first started seeing bird damage on my fruit, it was too late to research and buy commercial-grade bird netting. The cheap stuff from Home Depot would have to do, but it didn’t. As they say, you get what you pay for. This stuff is too light, too flimsy, too weak and too small to protect fruit from birds. (I wrote a bit about netting recently)

I also suspect that not only birds but racoons are responsible for the lost crop. Birds will pull rachises through nets (check) and they will use their body mass to weigh down the nets to get to the fruit – braking canes in the process (check). My netting was ripped wide open in a couple of spots. Birds don’t do that.

Once again, I find myself rolling my eyes at the memory of my parents hand-feeding racoons in their back yard because they are such cute creatures…

Deep breath… There is still a lot of work to be done this year.

The vines need to continue receiving water until they go dormant. I have to pull and clean up a lot of weeds. The netting needs to be removed. I need to move irrigation lines so drippers are farther from the vines (to encourage root development – I will alternate sides over the next few years. I also want to put in these PVC tubes, which should help make the most of the water. Maybe, I’ll have time to put in the Venturi injector on the irrigation system (for insecticide delivery). Then, pruning and budbreak before I know it.

In the meantime….

Two area residents (one from the other side of Mt. Washington and another from Montecito Heights, across the Arroyo) have contacted me about their interests in starting a home vineyard. It’s nice to see the interest and nice to be asked. I plan to write more about this later. For the time being, I wanted to address something that came up in these discussions.

Tom (the Montecito Heights neighbor) and I discussed water costs, among other things, and he speculated about the feasibility of deficit irrigation. The cost of irrigating a tenth-acre vineyard on a southwest-facing slope in the city of L.A. is no small proposition. Even with drought-resistant rootstocks, the vines need a lot of water.

The following video demonstrates the impact of complete water deprivation over a three week period:

Deficit irrigation starting after veraison may feasible but not ideal. And it is my hope that sub-surface irrigation will both save on water costs and get more water to the vines – especially during periods of water deficits.

I’ll try it next year. Presuming I don’t break any more toes.

Oct 5, 2011; Correction: I just spoke to Jeff Miller, who suggests that in my site, the optimal irrigation plan would be to hold back until well after flowering and then deficit irrigate from flowering (after green growth stops) to veraison. Increasing water to meet demand after veraison may be appropriate, but Jeff cautions against excessive watering as harvest approaches.



Father, husband, physician, amateur guitarist, wine lover, wine writer, wine grower and wine maker trying to do it all within eye shot of downtown Los Angeles.
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