It’s been a while since I’ve posted in this space, due largely to work duties and the hammering out of a new manuscript. But I thought I’d take a moment to provide an update on one of my major agricultural projects this summer: The Southside Vineyard.
An ongoing concern of mine has been preserving a set of grapevines that were originally transported to the United States by my grandfather, who brought them over from Italy. With the sale of his original home in Milwaukee, getting clippings from these vines became a matter of some urgency. I grew my clippings indoors last summer, and this spring, I set out to create a grape trellis in our local community garden in Woodlawn.
Preparing the ground for the vines took a good two days of work. The soil in our community garden is thick with old bricks and breaking through that layer took quite a bit of grunt work. The trellis is constructed of eight-foot tall cedar posts, which have been sunk three feet deep and stabilized with concrete. The wire line is 9-gauge galvanized steel. The lines are attached to the posts using special wire vises I found out about on Youtube.
The second week in May, I transplanted my vines and hoped for the best. Three of them were taken straight from the pots I’d been growing them in and a fourth was clipped from one of those, and was the only one never to show any signs of life.
There was a scary moment after a hard rain about a month ago. It seemed as if two of the vines got pummeled pretty badly and their stems had cracked. I gently re-affixed them to the bamboo guide poles and hoped for the best, while secretly expecting the worst. Turns out, these guys are harder to kill than you might imagine.
I’m happy to report that the vines are starting to show promising signs of growth, as you can see from these photos:
This first one gives you a view of the overall scale of the project. The length of the row is approximately twenty feet. You can see how I’ve re-purposed the discarded bricks to help set up a border.
This second photo gives you a closer view of the vines themselves. The closest one (bottom of picture) is perhaps the most robust plant (which was the case even back when they were indoors in pots). The middle plant is the best climber thus far, and may have the best chance of making it to the first line on the trellis before winter sets in. The furthest vine is the most touch-and-go. Its leaves are sallow and its growth isn’t inspiring a lot of confidence. At the top, barely visible, is the fourth plant, which was a new cutting this spring and never took root or showed any signs of life.
The third photo is the reverse angle from the first two.
I’m not sure how much more growth they’ll get in before the end of the growing season. I’d like to see all three of them make it to the first trellis line, so they’ll have something to hang onto when the weather turns, but we’ll have to see. Certainly no grapes this year, and probably not next year either. But sooner later, the Southside Vineyard will be up and running.