May is Growing Time!
I am always amazed at how quickly the seasons change. Even though this spring was later in arriving this year, it seemed like summer arrived just as the last of the snow was gone. On the farm, the list of projects grows exponentially.
Around here, once the grass starts growing, it seems we are always needing to mow it. The asparagus is popping, the pear blossoms are blooming, the berries are pushing new shoots and here come the grapes. When the grape buds push, they seem to open for us about 2-3 weeks after the cherry blossoms.
Once they start swelling, it is important that we monitor the progress and the pests that can destroy those buds and small shoots. The grape flea beetle will eat the inside of the bud consuming the tiny clusters that are the grapes for the season. The climbing cut worms can do the same thing. We do not use insecticides unless we need to. Some years the bugs do not show up. Other times, the growth of the plant can push past the destruction these little critters can cause.
The biggest pest that we contend with on our farm in the spring is the threat of a killer frost. We have a frost protection system that we will put to work on those nights when our small green shoots are out and a cold spring night is in the forecast. I have an alarm as well that goes off if the temperature drops below 35; we are up immediately and put our system to work. The method uses fans to remove the cold, low lying air in the vineyard and tarps hanging on our perimeter deer fence to keep the cold air outside the vineyard from flowing in. This system does not work on all frost incidents, but it does help for many of ours.
A farmer has many things to learn about their crops, their equipment, their land and their customers. Accepting that there is no end to the learning is an important part of being successful. This fall, Northern Virginia Community College is offering classes on viticulture. As our wine region continues to grow in both size and stature, we need to maintain the growth of both our quality and production of our wines. The work that Loudoun County, the town of Purcellville, industry leaders and the educational institutions have put into this effort is paying off. We look forward to this program being the start of some bigger things. Learn, grow, share and work your buns off! Cheers.
Written by: Doug Fabiolli