Yesterday (March 31) was only the fifth day since the first of the year that the temperature had risen above freezing. However, the forecast is for above freezing temperature, at least during the day, for the foreseeable future. Breakup is just around the corner . . . and then comes the growing season!!
While our winter was "a bit above normal" temperature wise, we still racked up 76 days where the temperature fell below zero here in thehills. In comparison, during the "polar vortex" plagued winter of 2013-2014, Minneapolis, MN, accumulated just 50 days below zero. To explain why many grapevines in the region died and most growers had no crop the following summer, it was noted that with so much cold "the grapevines just gave up!" Hmm, doesn't bode well for our vines here on the farm. Nevertheless, we continue to experiment and have adopted a new motto: "It's not if we can grow <insert plant>, but how". Where there's a will, there has got to be a way. Here is a picture of one of our Ivan grapevines that we uncovered last weekend. It had been under 30 inches (76 cm) of snow. The coldest the bottom buds experienced this last winter was -12F (-24C) in November before the snowpack developed. As this variety has shown survival down to -25F (-32C) in Minnesota, there is a good chance that buds survived. We'll have to wait and see, though.
With breakup comes the need to start stockpiling water for plants. We have been busy melting snow in containers to fill our tanks and trash cans. Granted, it has been a slow process until just this week. Now that the nights aren't getting that cold, the melting snow should remain as water and not refreeze at night. We'll move this water to one of our larger storage tanks and continue melting more until we have about 2000 gallons (7500 l) stored. Hopefully, that will get us most of the way through our dry period.
We are experimenting with growing cut flowers (besides our peonies) this year. Not sure how all of this will go. We are also looking at growing early season strawberries to lengthen our harvest season of fruit. Nothing typically ripens before mid-July and so we are hoping to start at least a month earlier with strawberries. Not wanting to add to the harvest pressure late in the summer, we'll be focusing on "June bearing" strawberries, which only fruit for a few weeks early in the season. These and early season cut flowers would benefit from a high tunnel and so that may be on the horizon, though we need to figure out financially how that fits in with the construction of a winery.
A new farm tour will be out soon, we promise - though another tour in late April will give a good picture of winter survival and summer production.
We will also be adding our farm to the "Interior Grown Agriculture Directory". For this year, we will probably only list raspberries, but will be adding to the list of available items as our production increases (think apples, cherries, serviceberries, aronia . . . and of course blackberries and grapes) and our experience grows.
Consider liking us on Facebook (Solitude Springs Farm & Vineyard), as we post more frequently there.
Time to go plant seeds and pot up rooted grape cuttings!