Recently, we had the opportunity to put theory into practice. You may remember a controversial post back in the heat of summer of whether or not grow tubes should be used extensively in the vineyard. The experiment has concluded, and I will share some of our findings:
1. Grow tubes offer excellent upward training. Ours didn’t allow for the vines to be able to tendril to the bamboo poles, but upon taking the tubes off, the plants all stood perfectly vertical and we simply had to tie each one to the pole using our handy green tape.
Tendril: The fancy threadlike stems that climbing plants grow to attach to things and work their way up, up, and away. It’s quite amazing to see the grapes tendril to the bamboo, but not so much when they tendril to overgrown weeds or whatever else that shouldn’t be around.
For all the plants that weren’t naturally securing themselves to the poles, we were going to have to manually fasten. This is necessary for a variety of reasons: to keep that upward training going, to prevent the plants from lying on the ground all winter long, and to protect the plants from all the little critters that might decide to stomp/eat them. Perfect opportunity for some of Dave’s advice: “Never go into your vineyard without tape or clippers”. Noted.
2. Not only were the tubed varietals standing more vertical than the untubed brethren, they also appeared to be growing taller with more of a leaf canopy.
An important point to be made; however, is that if you use grow tubes you should practice proper weed management and make sure to take care of the young vines in the tube.
a) Exhibit 1: Excessive weeds will compete with the plants for nutrients, create too much shade for the little vine; and worst of all, make the vineyard look ugly:
b) Exhibit 2: In a previous post, I pointed out that the first year of growth should include clipping off all grapes that appear because all growth should be focused underground, establishing a strong root system. Yielding grape clusters too early robs valuable resources. If a vintner isn’t careful, grape clusters can grow deep in the tube unbeknownst to him.
We had many of these grape clusters growing that should have been nipped in the bud early in the season, but it was a busy summer and the plants didn’t seem to mind too much (we hope). Great thing about farming is that there is always next year!
Before taking the tubes off, we had to tend to the mess our vineyard had become. Once again, weeds of all shapes and sorts had decided to consume our vineyard and our only line of defense (1970s Case tractor) was on injured reserve. You see, we planned out the spacing of the vineyard perfectly for 10 feet between vines to allow for driving our tractor through the aisles with ease. Unfortunately, the tractor wasn’t working perfectly all summer…
That is, until one fateful weekend in late October. Not only was our vintage tractor (vintage=cool) roaring again, but this guy was about to get a crash course in harnessing the power of the beast.