Johnston Vineyards

The Winter Vineyard

The Winter Vineyard

Pruning continued under moonlight on this cold winter day. Shown here are 2 year old Petite Pearl vines pruned (right) and not pruned (left).

Winter Pruning

Cold hardy vine pruning commenced in late December at Johnston Vineyards and continued fairly steadily until early March when pruning of the vinifera vines began. This just finished up in early May. The rationale of pruning the vinifera later is that any late damage to the more susceptible vines would be detected and pruning adjusted accordingly. This winter the lowest temperature was -17 C in Falmouth and there was little obvious vine/bud damage. Cutting open 100 buds selected randomly from the vinifera block is a commonly used method of measuring the percentage of buds damaged by the cold. Seeing healthy green cut canes seemed to be a reliable measure of cold damage as well. The Chardonnay had the most crown gall infection which was located mainly at the base of the trunks. Crown gall is an incurable bacterial disease that begins mainly at sites of winter injury and grows to strangle the vine. When young vines are infected the trunks generally require removal within the next year or two. The presence of crown gall emphasized the need to bring 2 trunks up from the graft site so that one trunk remains when the diseased trunk is removed. The Cabernet Foch had a small amount of crown gall while the Riesling appeared to have minimal involvement. All 3 varieties were on 3309 root stalk.  The secret to winter pruning is dressing warmly! The wind howls all year long in Upper Falmouth and adds to the pain. Winter rain is not infrequent. Battery operated pruners (Electorcoup 3010 and 3015 information) will be helpful when the vines get into their  4th year but for now handheld pruners are fine.   The pruned canes were gathered with a landscape rake (MK Martin 6 foot width 950$ from VanOostrums, Port Williams). It was more efficient when every other tine was removed. The vines were stacked in piles and loaded in a cart.

The sun is setting on a melting vineyard

Trellis Maintenance

The wires were tightened where needed. Gripples were located on both ends of the fruiting wire and the end post guys and were used to tighten the wires. Otherwise the wires were shortened manually and attached to the end posts with 6 inch chains. Bob’s Fencing in New Minas (902-670-6407) provides fabulous service and did work on the anchors that were pulled out by tractors and equipment passing too close to the guys. This is a common problem and something that needs to be carefully monitored when new personnel are working in the vineyard. Also see a previous blog about the Artos trellis system (new trellis system). It seems likely that the NY Muscat and Petite P earl will fare better on a top wire trellis system. The vines were pruned for VSP this year to allow more growth before putting the fruiting canes on the top wire. Good sun exposure during early grape cluster development seems to increase the yield at harvest for these varieties.

Equipment and Personnel

Wayne Sexton is the farm manager and provides an invaluable service maintaining the equipment and planning the work schedule in the vineyard. The sprayer (2009 Gregoire Paris model 2000 liters) was completely overhauled. Besides finding a bird nest in the motor there were a number of hoses, gauges and a solenoid that needed to be replaced.  Wayne also serviced the tractor. An attachment was added to the Kabota ATV that allows spraying from both sides of the vehicle. A mount was placed on the ATV to allow the bird netting to be unrolled from the moving ATV. Wayne’s nephew, Devin Sexton is now workng full time at Johnston Vineyards and is in training to be the vineyard manager. He learned a lot working with Matthew Patterson at Lightfoot and Wolfville Winery this winter. He is a highly valued employee who will help Johnston Vineyards evolve into a high quality enterprise that will contribute to the reputation of Nova Scotia wines.

It wasn’t the winter of 2014/15 when the pruning was delayed until spring due to heavy snowfalls, but there were days when the hired help had to dig their way into the house.

Soil Nutrition

A new fertilizer technology has been recommended by Lise LeBlanc at LP Consulting (902-256-2636). It  incorporates several fertilizer ingredients (boron, Nitrogen, Phosphorus etc) on a single prill (brand names are MESZ, NK and Aspire). This provides even distribution of all the components (Price/ton is $745 from Truro Agromart). Nick Juurlink is the district representative and conveniently lives just down the road from the vineyard at Castle Fredrick (902-895-2857).

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