Vineyards in the Spring

It’s “Vineyard Time” in the Indiana Uplands American Viticulture Area as well as all other AVA’s and other areas in the northern hemisphere that grow grapes.  So what does vineyard time in the spring entail?  Pruning, trellising, planting, fertilizing and discarding old clippings.  This year we have the added dimension of checking bud health.  Normally it doesn’t get as cold as it has this year, so there is a general concern we lost some fruitful buds.  As a rule, the idea of losing fruitful buds causes us to delay pruning then begin a mad dash through the vineyard to get it done.  Here are some thoughts from several of our growers.


Butler Winery:  Just recently started pruning Vignoles. We are usually well under way by this time but are postponing a bit longer to see what the winter damage is, especially with Chambourcin and Chardonel. I want to see buds coming out before I go in and prune. We cleared several more acres last fall and planted wheat. We will not plant grapes until 2015, varieties yet to be determined.  This year will be soil preparation.  We have some trellis to repair, a few end post to reset, some wires to tighten in the mean time.  We are trying to get as much cellar work done now so that when the weather pops we can focus on the vineyard.  – Jim Butler

Owen Valley Winery: We’ve begun to work through the vineyard by straightening the existing trellising. This involves removing some or all vines from the wires and pulling the wires with the tractor to get them solid, and sturdy for this years grapes. We then re-tie the vines back on the wires and move to the next row.  We are also performing some obvious pruning, but waiting to perform the core pruning until the last frost risk is past.  We are also preparing to plant 578 more Catawba vines this spring. This involves prepping the soil where the rows will be, identifying the hands to assist, and assuring all the machinery is operational.  – Anthony Leaderbrand

French Lick Winery:  We usually graze the grass in the vineyard closely with our 180 Katahdin ewes and newborn lambs as well as repair any damaged trellises. We also spread diammonium phosphate fertilizer to encourage fruitful vines. With the cold temperatures this past winter, French Lick Winery is delaying the dormant pruning until bud break in early April when we will become very busy. Since the buds will be open, pruning will have to be done by hand which will take approximately two weeks.  We will complete final bud count pruning after the danger of frost has passed, usually in the first week of May.  Pruning the vines to 30 - 60 buds per vine ensures quality fruit and vine health.  – John Doty

Turtle Run Winery:  We started pruning in late November of what we call obvious pruning opportunities.  However when the first major cold front came through that dropped temperatures more than 50 degrees in a few hours, we decided to wait until bud break occurs before pruning.  Turtle Run will be adding manure as well as last year’s skins and stems back into the vineyard for some natural fertilizing.  Additionally we will add a limited amount of commercial fertilizer to the vineyard in the early spring to get the vines the nutrients they need when they need it most, the early stages of growth.  – Jim Pfeiffer



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