Friday, November 2, 2018

A Big Decision

When we bought this property 8 years ago, there were three 12-foot rows of old grapevines in the fenced garden. Like everything here, they had been sorely neglected and were wandering everywhere. We really had no idea what varieties they were, other than finding some old wine bottle labels in the barn describing a "vintage" of Canadice and Vanessa. By "old" I don't mean very old, probably 1980s or 90s.

We thought we could tame the vines by careful pruning and trellising. This took a lot of time and effort. We even added two more rows of vines, making a total of 60 row-feet. But sad to say, we were defeated. Black rot had taken hold in the vineyard, and it was impossible to control. It has the effect of turning the beautiful fruit clusters into disgusting shriveled mummies, full of the fungus spores.

As I said, we put a lot of work into it. Other tasks included removing excess foliage to encourage air flow, dropping fruit clusters to make the remaining ones more robust, and spraying with a fungicide (which really didn't do much). And the thing was, since there were so many varieties, the fruit had different maturities...some early, some late. This made wine-making a challenge. And you know what? We really weren't crazy about the wine we made.

So we made the big, painful decision...just rip them out. So here's the last glimpses.

It was sad, really, when you think of the decades-old vines in particular. But this is a process commercial wineries go through all the time.

I cut the vines down to the ground, and painted the stumps with an herbicide. Removing the trellis wires was a hassle. Here is how it looks now.

We are not going to replant vines in this space. The chances are too great that the fungus remains in the soil. Instead, I'm going to experiment with Straw Bale Gardening. As the years go on, the southern portion of the fenced garden is getting shadier, making the northern part more desirable for planting. I don't want to go through the effort and expense of building more raised beds and trucking in soil. Straw bale seems like an ideal solution for growing things like peppers and eggplants. It will be fun, I think.

We still want to grow grapes. I'm going to start with three new vines, all the same variety. Probably one of the Niagara-type wine grapes. I'll put them on a fence line away from this space. The fence will serve as a ready-made trellis. Hopefully the fungus has not migrated all over the place.

I'll keep you posted!


  1. That is a tough kind of decision to make but it sounds like you had lots of good reasons to take out the vines. In the end it sounds like a much better use of the spaces you have and you'll have a chance to make some good tasting wine.

  2. Sometimes it's best to "forget" about all the work that went into something that's simply not working, cut our losses and start from scratch. Fingers crossed your new vines do better. Looking forward to following your straw bales adventures - there's a bit of a learning curve with them!