You might wonder what de-budding means - and, I can't wait to show and tell you!
The trunk of the vines should be clean and free of any green shoots. These green shoots (or suckers) take energy from the vine to grow, produce and ripen fruit. We want all the energy to be focused on the part of the vine which runs on the wire horizontal to the ground called the cordon. Each vine should have two arms, one coming from each side of the trunk and growing along the cordon wire.
Since we had such severe freezes as the vines were budding out and to some degree the vines sustained damage, they are putting out an exceptional amount of suckers this year! Unlike the first picture, before de-budding the vineyard, you could not see underneath the rows to the far side of the vineyard there was so many suckers!
De-budding can be done chemically with a chemical called paraquat which is very dangerous if inhaled. Since we do not have a tractor with a cab (to protect the one spraying from breathing in the chemical) and since we purposefully use as few chemicals as possible, we de-bud by hand. In the picture below you can see a vine before being de-budded.
This is the same vine after being de-budded (all the suckers pulled off) and the shoots coming off the cordon have been tucked into the wires above. This tucking encourages the vines to grow up in a controlled manner. Especially with our Montepulciano vines, canopy management is extremely important to have healthy vines.
You might wonder what happens to all the shoots we pull off. We gather a bunch of them up to take home! As you can see, everyone helps gather handfuls to pile on the cart - even our 4 yr old!
We take these home to the cows each day at lunchtime and again in the evening.
The cows hear us coming and if they are not already waiting by the fence licking their lips, they come running from the pasture!
Normally, they are very well mannered and mooooo a thank you! But sometimes, they are so engrossed with getting the biggest shoots, they just butt each other out of the way to get to the vines!
What a life!