Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer is here - warm, dry, and smoky!

This is the last weekend for plant sales.  Now, my focus changes to preparing for produce sales starting in July.  It looks like I will be partnering with another farm in the area (Pingo Farm) to organize a farmers market for the Goldstream Valley, north of Fairbanks.  We have permission to hold it at the Ken Kunkel Community Center on Goldstream Road.  I'll post the hours when I know them.

The 'vineyard' is starting to green up.  Budbreak began on May 17th and by now all but a handful of varieties have begun pushing buds (exceptions include Landot Noir, GR-7, Captivator, Suffolk Red, and Concord).  The weather has been warm and we accumulated about 170 Growing Degree Days (GDD) 50F - a measure of heat - in May.  That is about 80 more than "normal".  We have received very little rainfall since early May and that is contributing to an extreme fire danger.  Once again, there is smoke in the air and the Hastings fire is about 10 miles or so to the north.  This is the second fire within a 15-mile radius of the farm.  Two years ago, the Hardluck Fire burned to within 4 miles of the farm and some in the area prepared to evacuate.  This fire was the turning point in my decision on how large of a vineyard to attempt.  Before, I wanted to be 'in the trees'.  Afterward, I realized that planting grapes in a clearing  could serve double-duty as a fire break and a source of income.

I say 'vineyard', because many vines are still in pots.  I hope to have an area cleared for them by July, with the help of a neighbor and a bulldozer.

I added a few new varieties this year to my trial (bringing the total to 68).  New to the list are Baltica, Norway Red, MN 78, Petite Jewel, LaCrosse, Alpenglow, Summersweet, Himrod, Mars, Garanoir, Golubok, Siegerrebe, Rondo, and Burmunk.  Burmunk has generated over a foot of growth since it budded out earlier this month.

It appears that I am still dealing with issues related to winter injury.  I found one of four Beta vines last September that appeared to harden its wood off better than the other three.  However, when I pruned it this spring, it suffered just as much winter injury as the other three.  Valiant, on the other hand was king of winter survival.  It hardened off wood down to the thickness of string and then proceeded to bud out the entire length that I didn't prune off.  All six Valiant vines were covered by 4 inches of dirt over the winter, so this may not be entirely representative of what I will encounter when I train it to the high wire renewal (top wire cordons) system.

I'll try to get some pics up pretty soon.  Time to wrap up the plant sales for tonight.