Vineyard Birds & Bees
Or lack thereof…
In this post, we’ll explore what’s happening in California vineyards right now, bloom!
Checking out the weather forecast last week ago, we noticed rain was scheduled for yesterday, Thursday. It wasn’t much but if it were, it could have left a powerful impact on the vines. Only several weeks ago, the vines started to show Bud Break, an indication that the vines have awoken after a dormant winter. This life cycle period of time can take up to two months to complete, when it will enter into its Flowering stage.
At a distance, flowering is hardly noticed, yet it plays perhaps the most critical part in determining the quality of a harvest. We should know, we drive past them every day on the way to and from work. The shoots grow noticeably, but if we look a little closer, the tiny green clusters have begun to open. Where the grapes will be eventually, at the end of each pedicel is a tiny growing knob, which will open to develop little flowers. When the vines are in full bloom, there will be a whole cluster of these beautiful white flowers. In a perfect season, most every one of these flowers will develop into a berry.
While the flowers hang out there, they are susceptible to harm by wind, frost and rain. Harsh elements can damage the flowers, preventing the flowers from opening at the same time, an ideal occurrence. For some wineries, a perfect flowering means they open at the same time, their many minuscule tentacles opening up like arms, almost touching or overlapping each other to look like, when fully developed, a fuzzy white ball. These fuzzy clusters need calm, warm weather in order to pollinate other flowers. They stand no chance in a frost, rain or strong winds, which can severely lessen the potential crop.
If one night is forecasted to be particularly cold, the large iconic vineyard fans will start to spin, circulating the warmer air, which rises, pushing it down to the vines, minimizing the chances of a freeze. In regions with steep mountains or elevation differences, flowering will take place over several weeks due to the temperature difference.
Since grapevines are Hermaphrodites, they have no problem pollinating themselves. Bees are very helpful in other ways when it comes to the ecosystem of vineyards and beneficial plants, but they are not needed for grapevine pollination.
Once the flowers have been successfully pollinated, the ovary will produce a seed inside the green knob revealed as the petals fall. These knobs will develop and mature into the berries, forming the clusters we know at the end of their growing season.
Flowering sets the stage and can determine to a great extent of how even and healthy the fruit will be. This critical time period is one of serenity and peace to allow the flowers do what they do. During this fleeting stage is the time to, with due respect, take an up close look at the vines if given the opportunity!