With summer in the vineyard it is time to ‘tuck in the vines’. I love the picture these words create. It always makes me think of tucking the vines in to bed for the night. And, in a way, it is a bit like that.
As summer progresses the vines of course grow, and like most vines they can grow long and start to cling to everything and anything. So the job in the vineyard becomes curtailing them and training them. By doing this the vines spend less energy in growing the vine and more energy in producing the fruit.
If you haven’t been into a vineyard, you have probably seen pictures, but either way I will bet you haven’t really noticed the wires. Neither had I, not really. I noticed the vines, as you do, and I vaguely noticed the wooden posts at the end of the rows, but really for me it was all about the grapes and the end result – wine. (Still is.)
Turns out there are 3 wires running along the row of vines. There is a low wire, about knee height, which is the one you train the vine along (read my previous post ‘Spring in the Vineyard‘ to understand how and why). This lower wire is attached to the posts dotted along the vine row. Then there are two side by side wires above that one. They run on either side of the posts and so create a gap in between them. They are not fixed to the post, rather they rest on a series of nails that are at varying heights up the post so you can raise these wires up as the vines grow.
The ‘tucking’ part is where you take the lengthening vines and tuck them in between the gap of the two wires so that the vine points upward. The result looks almost like a hand, with the vines looking like fingers. By having them go vertical this gives space and air to the foliage and consequently the grapes, giving less chance of mildews and rot, more space for the grapes to grow and good shade for them during the heat of the mid day. We use clips shaped like the letter C to pull the two wires together at places, keeping the vines in place.
The vines are trimmed, rather like giving a haircut, to just a bit longer than the top wires. We also tuck in and trim the vines to be sure they are not touching the ground. Touching the ground is the easiest way for them to pick up mildew and transfer it to the whole of the vine. Mildew is a danger in vineyards as it defoliates the vine and without foliage the grapes will not be healthy and grow into a proper bunch fit for harvesting to make wine. At the same time we also trim any additional shoots around the roots that have sprung up. You don’t want extra shoots taking away the energy from the grape producing.
With the heat of the day in summer, Maggie Duck and I are usually out very early, in the cool of the morning, to trim and tuck the vines. Maggie walks along side me and points out any low lying vines that need tucking in, by nibbling on them. As the morning progresses, her legs get tired and she changes to riding in my day pack, dictating and commenting on my work. We normally finish about mid-day when it is just gets too hot to continue. This is a luxury for us, as Pumpjack and those in other vineyards work though the whole day, no matter the heat. However, as my other work beckons, not to mention a duck who gets hot, tired (cranky) and therefore needs looking after, we are lucky enough that we get to head back to the cool of the house for lunch.