Little rain fell in the entire month of June. Last year we thought our new grape vines would drown with the constant rains.
Normally vines are a drought-loving plant. Dry air keeps fungus from sporulating and UV radiation kills it. Downy mildew and powdery mildew, two major enemies of viticulturists, are nowhere to be seen this year. But as the days pass with only morning dew for moisture, our normally moist Hillier Clay Loam becomes harder and starts to dry and crack. The new vines that I bought this year to fill in empty spaces will have a tough time weathering such a dry spell — they just haven’t had time to grow extensive root systems like the mature vines have. Action needs to be taken or they won’t make it.
“I have a guaranteed way to make it rain,” I told a friend.
“Are you doing a rain dance?”
“Nope. I’m going to water the vines.”
Watering the vines was a fairly large job. We have no irrigation equipment. Fortunately what we do have are two energetic teenage daughters. That day, one of them could be found nearby resting in the hammock.
“Eva,” I said, “I need some help. I need you to water the vines.”
“ALL OF THEM?!” she said.
I chuckled. “No, silly, just the baby vines.”
A few weeks ago we planted 300 replacement Pinot Noir 115 on So4 and Pinot Gris on 101-14 in empty spaces where vines had been killed by the frost or the tractor. With few exceptions, each new plant had by now sprouted a green leaf or two.
Fortunately, the majority of the new vines were planted close to our building. I helped Eva screw together 6 or 7 garden hoses and most of the vines could be reached. I worked on ahead pulling the weeds away from each new plant and kicking a small divot around them. Then Eva followed behind and gave each a good spray. Those the hose couldn’t reach were watered with a bucket.
Once that was done, Eva retired back to the hammock.
Since about 100 other replacement vines were distributed throughout the rest of the vineyard, and we only had a limited amount of garden hose, another approach was needed.
For this I enlisted Anika, my other teenager. Her job was to ride behind the tractor in our old trailer with six totes full of water. I drove up and down the vine rows and whenever we came to a baby vine, Anika would leap out of the trailer and pour half a pail of water on it. She did it all with a smiling face and lots of positive energy.
All the work was accomplished with positive energy and pleasantries. We went home, satisfied by a good day of work, exhausted and sunburnt by the hot day.
And the next day there was a good hard rain that drenched the vineyard.