Sunday, August 24, 2014

Urban vineyard: Be thankful for small favors — and bird netting

Bird netting connected with clothespins encased the vines. For some reason, birds didn't try to penetrate it. 

Inside the canopy
An April frost, a huge limb falling on the vines in a storm, and a bit of black rot diminished the yield of the urban vineyard, but a record-high sugar measurement this year promised better quality wine. 

Two things happened this year for the first time: all eight plants contributed fruit, and the vines fulfilled their function as a tent for the grapes, providing shade and protection from pests. In earlier years, we had patches of leafy expanse and other spots where grapes were dangling more or less exposed.

We tried bird netting for the first time in five years, and it worked. I abandoned bird netting in 2010 because the birds found ways to stick their beaks into the spaces and grab grapes one at a time. Worse, some birds using this technique got caught in the netting and died horrible deaths. Oddly, this year we had smarter birds that mostly left the netting alone. 

The "shroud" was used to protect small areas of clusters.
Netting proved to be much easier to maintain than the row cover we had been using to cloak the row of vines in a “shroud.” We did use a bit of row cover for areas of isolated clusters. 

Like row cover, bird netting encased the entire plant, secured along the ground with garden staples on either side.

I suspect the long dry spell was responsible for this week's remarkable spike in the brix up to 20, which is the highest reading I've ever seen from these plants. The forecast calls for rain later this week, which would dilute the sugar content, so I decided to act now. 

We harvested about 20 pounds of St. Vincent today (right). I’m amazed that we got that much in the face of all the natural obstacles this year brought.

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