2018, the Hail Mary Season
It is September 9, 2018, usually we are harvesting by now. Today, I am taking a break from the preparations, writing this blog. We are in the middle of an extratropical rainfall of three-day duration, possibly over 4 inches, after the wettest summer on record. This is not what we want to see in a vineyard.
Wet seasons bring numerous problems to vineyards, like Downy Mildew on the leaves slowing ripening, Gray Mold on the fruit reducing our harvest. We have had tractors stuck in the mud, repeated spraying multiple times a week now, and either stifling heat or tropical downpours for our workers. If you want to grow wine grapes in the Mid-Atlantic, you need to be able to handle one disaster after another in a season like this. We still have grapes on the vines and leaves on the shoots. And that gives us some hope. If the weather breaks the vines should be able to provide us with fruit for this vintage.
The changes in the vineyard that help us get through this kind of season include; removing fruit clusters with rot, pulling leaves around the clusters to improve air flow, increased spraying with different target zones and pests, and much more labor in the field. Tomorrow we will be back in the field doing everything we can and hoping for dry weather not tropical storms. The motto for this year is “drop, spray and pray”. I say a Hail May every time I pass Mary’s corner of the vineyard.