Just pause for a moment and take a good look around you today. There’s lots of lush green grass undulating in the breeze, flowering trees, bright yellow mustard weed, and budding vines. Yep, it’s finally spring.
Those of us with vineyards, have been waiting for those charming little buds to pop out on our vines. It heralds the beginning of the growing season and the end to the vines’ winter dormancy. Many winemakers will tell you that the longer that those vines sleep, the later the harvest, and a harvest in mid-to-late September is significantly better than one in the scorching days of August.
So now it’s two-parts excitement, and one-part anxiety. Excitement as in it’s another year, and what will Mother Nature hand us during the next five to seven months in terms of crop yields. Anxiety as in, we’re all now continuing to watch the temperature shifts during the evening and early morning hours as a frost is no longer welcome in our midst.
Grapevines are sensitive to freezing temperatures during the growing season, particularly when the vines bud and send out young shoots. Frost damage not only varies between vineyards, but often within a vineyard. A spring frost often leads to the loss of those lovely fruitful buds, meaning a decreased yield in the vineyard as well as the fruit quality.
Most farmers in this area will employ various vineyard management practices to mitigate possible frost damage. Some will prune later to help delay budbreak and minimize the risk to those shoots, while others will double prune. Finally, as that luscious green grass grows in the vineyard, farmers will mow. While cover crops hold moisture, they also prevent the soil from absorbing and holding heat, so it becomes necessary to mow the ground cover before the frost-prone weather.
Regardless, most farmers right now are watching, waiting and hoping that the predicted drop in temperatures will pass them by, and leave their vineyards and crops to thrive. As you drive around Lodi and the surrounding area, really give all of those vines and trees a second look. They’re all beginning to work to produce what the San Joaquin Valley is famous for…our varied bounty of fresh veggies, fruits and agricultural products.