Bud Break and the Start of the Wine Grape Growing Season
by Quincy Barton, Vineyard Manager
For the past few weeks in the vineyard, the buds on the vines have been swelling, breaking, and sending new shoots upwards, reaching for the marvelous sunlight. It is a critical period in the vineyard. Each vine is hard at work producing grape clusters that are about to be pollinated, and there are several factors which can affect yields, or the size of our grape crop. Weed and pest management, fungal control, and weather tracking become top priorities now that we’re in the middle of spring.
Weeds below and around the vines are not only aesthetically displeasing, but they also impede the vine’s ability to absorb nutrients and water. By removing the weeds near the vines (excluding the bluebonnets of course!), we decrease the vine’s competition for these vital elements.
Pest management can consist of different solutions as well, depending on the type of pests. Ensuring that a deer fence is properly kept up and checked for breaks or weak spots is especially important to prevent loss in young leaves, shoots, and ripening fruit. Deer can be incredibly detrimental to a vineyard, especially shorter fawns. Moreover, insects can also wreak havoc on vines, as they can chew holes in the plants, allowing harmful bacteria to enter the masticated leaves and stalks.
One of the most common viticultural problems we have in central Texas is fungal infections; especially powdery and downy mildews. Warmer weather paired with high humidity and rain are the ingredients for this destructive phenomenon, and as such the vineyards require diligent inspection in the late spring and summer months.
Lastly, Texas spring weather can be quite detrimental to the prosperity of a vineyard. At Fall Creek Vineyards, we experienced quite a nail-biting cold front a few weeks ago. While the temperatures thankfully didn’t quite dip below freezing, the late cool snap posed a potential threat of damage to our newly budded vines. Young growth is particularly susceptible to frost as the growth of a shoot initiates from the top; if this area becomes too badly injured, the apical dominance is disrupted, preventing new growth from continuing. Late spring freezes are a common and highly unfortunate reality of life in Texas. Conversely, warm spring days can bring about severe thunderstorms with high winds and hail in tow. Intense wind can break off young shoots from the vine and hail can devastate new growth and older vines alike. We’ve been very lucky to escape both fates during the severe thunderstorm cell that passed through this month.
So far, our vines are happy, healthy, and growing fast. Stay tuned for updates as this exciting growing season progresses, or better yet, come out and see us for a glass of wine and vineyard tour!