Monday, April 28, 2008


Last year after lunch with the owner of Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City, we went to see a fig tree that was growing on the side of one of his the beer warehouses. The fig tree was enclosed in a greenhouse structure and had succulent, ripe figs growing. My only life experience with figs was eating fig newtons. Wow, what a difference. Once I had the fresh figs, I understood how delicious the fruit really is.
During the winter I received in the mail a copy of Hobby Farms magazine. The magazine had a article about growing figs and described ways of growing fig trees in colder climates. The technique is very similar to what vineyard owners do in very cold climates like Minnesota or parts of Michigan for vinifera grape growing. At the end of the season, you cut the roots on one side and lay the tree down and cover with soil. This is a very easy thing to do. The alternative method is to plant the fig tree in a larger pot and make sure the pot has drainage holes in the bottom. Once the fig tree grows larger during the season, the roots can go through the bottom holes. Then at the end of the season, you dig up the pot and move to the inside of your house.
I bought 4 Figs for $15 a piece from Edible Landscaping. The variety I chose was Hardy Chicago which has fruit that is brown, rich and sweet. Good for potted culture. They say that "in 1999, we picked the first ripe outdoor figs on July 31st. Does extremely well in N.C. and we send this one to enthusiasts up north, because of its early fruiting tendency. Zones 6-8." I will plant one fig at my house and two others at the vineyard. I will keep you updated as the fig grows and hopefully produces fruit.

Cutting for Grapevines Part II

On April 16th, the cuttings of Sangiovese and Zinfandel were put into a tray with rooting hormone on the ends. By April 26, the buds on most were swollen and many of the plants were starting to leaf out. I have never been able to get cuttings to bud that quickly. Above are pictures of the Sangiovese and Zin cuttings.

I believe there are two factors for this quick success. First, having the growing tray off the ground thus allowing the soil to warm up in the tray. I had a glass table with a plastic tray. Second, the use of rooting hormone. The hormone kicks the callusing process in high gear. Now once the cuttings leaf off and develop longer roots you will need to move to a larger area to permantly plant your grapevine.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Upgraded the Airblaster

About 5 years ago I bought an airblaster for the vineyard. An airblaster is a necessary piece of equipment for a vineyard over one acre in size. It has a tank and the liquid fungicide, pesticide or nutrient is channeled to a series of spray nozzles that is blown by a powerful fan in a cloud. This cloud of goodies is able to cover all areas of the canopy and is very effective for the grape grower. The first airblaster rig had a 50 gallon tank and sprayed on one side as you drive down the vineyard aisle. A 50 gallon tank can cover about an acre of grapes. As you can imagine, with a sprayer that sprays on one side, you would have to go up and down the aisle twice to get each side of the canopy of the vines.

Here is a picture of my new airblaster sitting in my pickup truck:

Now this new airblaster has 150 gallon tank and sprays on both side at the same time. The guys at the brewery warehouse where I had taken delivery said it looked like a "Back to the Future" truck. I will have more posts to the blog to show you all the spraying and my gas mask. I cannot wait to use the new airblaster.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cuttings for new plants

In order to genetically create an identical grapevine plant from a vineyard a person doesn't use seeds. Seeds will be pollinated with maybe a different clones or different grapevine varieties. So we use pruning cuttings from a grapevine to make an identical plant. I was helping a new vineyard owner named Vicki Prugh and her vineyard named Racho Caliente (Hot Ranch) is located in Sutter Creek, CA.. She has Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Petit Sirah, Primitivo, Mourvedre, and Barbera planted. Her vineyard is on second leaf and has about 300 vines. She is head training the vines and I have created various diagrams to assist her in the pruning and training of head trained vines. She will either use a goblet training or with a little trimming, free hanging head trained vines. Here is picture of Vicki's with the tallest vine and picture of a Sangiovese vine:

Anyway, in return for my help, Vicki sent me cuttings of Zinfandel and Sangiovese. Both of these varieties I don't grow here in KC area since they are a little winter tender. I would love to do the Italian thing and plant Sangiovese or Nebbiolo vines. However, most people think I am crazy for Cab Franc, Malbec, Mourvedre etc.

So when you want to get a cutting to root, you first take a cutting from your pruning pile that is about a pencil in diameter as you can see here:

As you notice this length is a little longer than a pruner and has about 6-8 buds on it. You then cut on a slight angle just below a bud and it should look nice and green. As you see here:

Next you take the freshly cut end and dip it into a rooting hormone. You can buy this at many nurseries or places that sell plants and trees. This will assist in the cutting to throw out roots or begin to callus on the end.

Next, put the end with the hormone powder on it in the ground about 3 to 4 inches. In about 3-5 weeks the cutting will callus and put out a root. Some of the buds sticking out of the ground will throw a shoot and then you can transplant to a spot in the vineyard or your garden. I have many cutting going from what Vicki sent me and I will give you a progress report in a month.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Getting ready to plant Mourvedre

We are preparing to plant 3 new rows of Mourvedre. This planting will be higher density of 4' between the plants and 9 foot between the rows or 4 x 9. The process began on Saturday by installing 10 foot long telephone poles. Then a wire that will be 18" high for the irrigation wire was installed. Prior to tightening the wire really tight, the wire served as a guide for running the soil slitter down the rows. This slitter will break up soil down about 20" to aid in planting and for the vine to easily set its roots.
Here is the result of the slitting:

With the pickup truck loaded with landscape timbers that serve as the in-line posts, the truck got stuck in the mud. Being very ambitious, I wanted to bring the timbers just next to the rows and strategically drop off 3 timbers at each location. It was not to be, the truck got stuck in the mud up to the bottom of the door. We had to pull the truck out with the '57 Ford 800 tractor.

The truck got very dirty and required two runs in the car wash on Sunday:

Finished with Pruning at Last

The pruning is a major deal in the season of a vineyard. For example here is row #49 of Chardonnay prior to pruning:

And here is row #49 after the pruning. It took approximately 2 hours to pruning the 250 foot row of Chardonnay. Notice how neat and clean the row now looks. Once the flail mower is fixed, (a upcoming blog post) the cuttings that litter the vineyard aisles will be ground up and mulched back to the soil.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pruning - 120,000 Cuts Later

I have only 3 of 58 rows left to finish the pruning. This is the first year that Kati bloc has required the extensive amount of pruning since they are now in the third leaf. I figured out that most plants required 40 cuts with the pruners by hand. Therefore, with approx. 3,000 plants in the vineyard, there was 120,000 cuts made this season. Wow. It's a wonder why my hands are really hurting.