It’s back breaking, but I kinda like it

We’re getting stuck into bud rubbing again! Boy is this a tough job if you’re silly and don’t have it mechanised. All in good time.

So bud rubbing is simple, extremely important and hugely time consuming. In young vines, when you are coming into their 3rd year (or second in some cases), you want to create a trunk. You need to remove shoots in places that you do not want shoots to grow. So anything that grows from the graft to about 20cm below the fruiting wire will need to be removed or rubbed off. This will depend on how you intend to train your vines or what trellis system you have in place. We have a VSP (vertical shoot positioning) system and are training our vines to single guyot. So this is what we want.

By removing shoots/ buds in this area you will create an area that has little to no growth. This means that energy and nutrients is focussed into shoots growing in areas where you actually require the shoots to be i.e. on the fruiting wire. As the trunk becomes more established and woody (as you’d expect a trunk to be) this job becomes a little easier as there are less shoots/ buds to remove. You can still get what are called latent buds developing under the woody tissue which will need to be taken off. This needs to be done every year. Ahhhhhh. It is back breaking because these parts of the vines are lower than waist height and so you need to bend at the back and/ or the knees. You end up bopping up and down the rows and end up with creaky knees and a sore lower back. If you’re tempted to get involved with this next year then get in touch, you crazy person.

It is a super satisfying and rewarding job as, and this is the same for a lot of jobs in the vineyard, everything looks neat and tidy. I get a lot out of that. Depending on how well you do this job the first time and providing you’ve timed it right in relation to the growth of the vine, you may or may not have to do it again later on in the year. So we have to make sure we time it right and get it right, unless I’m feeling particularly mean and I know Dad is available.

You can see that these labour intensive jobs can rack up a pretty hefty bill if you were getting contract labour in to do it. As I mentioned above, this job can be mechanised. You can get rubber or bristle brushes on a front or rear mounted frame that essentially does this for you. They are pretty effective. “Why on earth have I not got one of these?” you might ask. Well, you’re right, why haven’t I? I like the pain. Jokes. Our vines still have the rabbit guards around them. So, great for some things and terrible for others. Once our vines have a more established trunk we will try taking some off to see if the rabbits will still go for them or not. We have the most monstrous rabbits, it’s nuts. You read and hear a lot about other people’s experiences with rabbits and on the whole they don’t bother you, maybe dig a hole hear and dig a hole there but ours burrow underneath vines destroying roots, uprooting vines and the second a vine is exposed its’ chopped in two by the darned critters. So you can see why I am bit hesitant to take them off. It’s a full time job filling in the holds they dig at our vineyard actually. Nightmare rabbits!

That was what is called a tangent. I’m back. The machine can’t, for obvious reasons, reach the shoots growing off of the plant inside the guard. That’s why we still do it by hand.

There is a reason why I like doing it by hand though, which is that you get to get up close and personal with each vine individually. This is important for me because although they are all genetically identical (within their varieties) they all interact differently with where they are in the vineyard, their surroundings, their neighbouring plant, their micro-climate, the soil, the nutrient additions and so on. And because they are all nurtured differently, the outcome will be different even if marginally different. By seeing each vine up close and regularly you get to see what’s going on. Is it thriving? Does it need more attention? You can make good management decisions based on this experience.

I’m going to get back to the vineyard now. Lots to crack on with. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the next installment of what we’re up to. Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think by either commenting on the website or get in touch with me personally. I’d be very happy to hear from you either way. Please share with anyone who you may feel might enjoy this also.

If you want to hear more about anything in particular or want more details let me know.

I hope to see you at the vineyard soon,

Nat McConnell

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