Friday, April 8, 2011

Whether the weather be nice.

At this time of year, when one season is still transitioning into the next, weird weather conditions can only be expected. In the space of one week the weather, in Vinoland, went from gloriously sunny with low 80 degree temperatures to hail and a daytime high of 54F. Last night, neighbouring vineyard fans heralded the arrival of the first post-budbreak spring frost, with their annual reminder to me of their proximity to my bedroom...at about 3 am. Such is life.
Late autumn/early winter rains, which persisted until about 10 days ago, have ensured that my particular part of the world is beautifully verdant, perhaps the lushest I have ever seen Northern California's vegetation. This means that most vineyard plants and weeds, (and I'll use the bothersome mustard as an example), seem to be having a unusually long growing season.
Recently, I was told about a neighbourhood vineyard that had purposely planted mustard in several rows of vines on either side of their driveway just to make the approach to the winery look pretty. Well yes, mustard en masse, in full bloom, does indeed look very pretty, but in my mind it is useless as a cover crop. I haven't the foggiest why anybody would go to the expense and bother of sowing mustard in their vineyard when all that effort could be put into a cover crop that would be of benefit to the finished wine (through nourishing the soil). Mustard has a very low biomass, it is not a legume as is often mistakenly thought, and most likely will take more out of the vineyard (in nitrogen - and water) than it would ever put back into the soil after disking-in as a green manure.
To add insult to injury, mustard also provides an overwintering site for the Grape Orange Tortrix (Argyrotaenia franciscana) worm/moth, a vineyard pest that can be every bit as problematic as the Grape Leafhopper.
I really had to look around for a mustard plant to photograph, eventually finding a lone example on my neighbour's property. There is no mustard in Vinoland, and if there was I'd pull it out. Even the aforementioned, mustard-enamored vineyard mowed their sunny, yellow, thigh-high crop down today as a frost damage prevention method...so it doesn't look so pretty anymore.
Weather, weeds, worms - it is a wonder that anyone chooses to be a farmer of anything, never mind wine grapes.

7 comments:

Thud said...

They put mustard in cos it brings in the tourists...like me! As for weather make the most of it as it will no doubt be pissing down your entire visit here.

Thomas said...

It certainly is a wonder that people farm; but then, people also choose to be politicians. So you can't say much about our collective intelligence, except that mustard is probably smarter.

Vinogirl said...

Thud: As for the weather...I don't care, I just want to be back home :)

Thomas: If politicians were weeds, which ones would they be?

Do Bianchi said...

I love the use of the subjunctive in the title! :)

Vinogirl said...

2B: Wish I could take credit for it, but it's actually a tongue twister from my childhood.

Thomas said...

Hmm. Weeds=politicians. Let me see.

How about milkweed? Sounds like it is good for us, but it's only purpose is to feed insects (and make latex). When we do partake of its nectar, we run the risk of taking in a nasty toxin that can make us quite ill, if not dead.

Finally, it pollinates by clinging on passing insects, like any other parasite would...

Vinogirl said...

Thomas, nice observation. I was thinking along the lines of the parasitic mistletoe myself...I'm pretty sure it would press a lot of flesh and kiss a lot of babies if given half the chance.