Timing is everything in the garden. I’ve known this for a very long time, but it was recently brought to my attention again in a particularly visible way. So, short story: For years I have had a wonderful grape vine over the arbor my father built me for my 40th birthday. It’s a seedless Concord cultivar, and for the first few years, it produced a decent crop of grapes. Then year after year, just as the grapes were getting luscious, they would start to turn black, eventually turning into unpleasant dried-out raisins, called in the trade ‘mummies.’ I thought, oh well, that’s too bad, and turned my attention to other things, thinking that this was something endemic in this particular variety. Then last summer, looking once again at this unpleasant non-harvest, I decided to investigate further. It turns out the problem is a very common fungal blight called black rot, native to the North East, and that it’s treatable using a combination of pruning techniques and fungicide treatments. (As an aside, this particular fungus pretty much dooms organic grape production in the East, for those who may be wondering.) So this spring I pruned away, and was encouraged by the formation of dozens of heavy grape clusters, more than I had ever seen before. Dozens and dozens and dozens. Oh, I could already taste the jam! I readied the sprayer, and waited until those luscious green globules began to form, then off I went, carefully applying the fungicide to each cluster. Everything was so looking dandy — until today.
Oh Michael! If only you had read the literature more carefully, you would have found that 1) the fungicide you use on your tomatoes for late blight isn’t the best for grapes and 2) you must begin spraying before the fruits form. In fact, the first indication of the problem shows up with those brown/black spots on the leaves. Now truth be told the thought had crossed my mind that this might be the case, but you have to be very careful about what you spray during bloom time, as many products can damage both blooms and pollinators, so on the false assumption that discretion was the better part of valor, I waited. Wrong answer, and I am guilty on two counts. The first is an unnecessary application of an ineffective fungicide, and the second is not carefully reading the literature. This is really inexcusable, especially for someone in my business, and now I am paying the full price of what will inevitably be the complete loss of the grape harvest yet again.
The only good news is that in the garden, you almost always get a do-over.
On to vintage 2017.