Planning ahead

I’m not a lunatic, contrary to popular belief. I’m not entirely sold on the fact that we should plant things at particular times of the month depending on lunar cycles, especially since there’s no scientific evidence for it, but then a big part of me thinks the moon can cause huge tides and can even have an effect on a little puddle, so why wouldn’t it have an effect on a plant. Not completely lunatic.

Anyway, I quite often follow Rustica’s advice on when to plant stuff, mainly because a) they are a gardening magazine and b) it’s a good reminder of what to do each day. It’s not because I believe in lunacy. I promise.

Today was one of those days when Rustica and I accidentally ended up doing the same thing. Pruning vines.

I thought I was a bit late. I am, in all honesty. I’m not sure when I should have done it – I was waiting for a frost and then it snowed and I couldn’t do it. Not such a good idea to prune in winter, mainly because it’s cold. If I think it’s cold, the plants do too. I take heart from the fact that half the vineyards round here ARE pruned, and half AREN’T. I also take heart from the fact that there are very many methods to growth and nobody seems to favour the exact same one. Pretty much, it comes down to leaving one longer branch with four buds on it, and one shorter branch with two buds on it on each side of the T shaped rootstock. This is not so easy for me because most of my vines aren’t T shaped at all, contrary to the pretty ones in the vineyards which are almost perfectly T shaped. Some of mine are S shaped. Some are more of a V. Some are a Y shape. Some of them don’t look like the alphabet at all, which makes them really hard to describe. But branches were growing out of them at all kinds of angles when we first got here, so I did the best I could. Considering I pruned them all back in early April, I’m pretty pleased I got anything at all and didn’t kill them. When you have 130 vines and no desire to a) make pineau b) attempt a small amount of wine or c) eat grapes 24/7 for 3 or 4 weeks, 1 or 2 don’t go amiss anyway.

Despite my early faux-pas, I got a good harvest, we made some paint stripper and I resolved never to try to make wine again.

Last year, I pruned over the winter – way before this point in the year on account of my premature zeal. We had a good harvest and I thought of other things to do with the grapes, like make grape jelly, freeze grape juice and make grape sorbet (the best fruit of my labour, it must be said, though I’m partial to grape jelly).

This year, snow and work kept me inside. I’ve only just started. I thought I was en retard. It turns out I was bang on, to the day, according to Rustica. I feel a little less silly. Now I’m more certain our elderly cock of the neighbourhood is not looking over my hedge laughing. I can say quite safely that I consulted Rustica and it said it was a good job for pruning.

Not only that, but I am also boxing up my clippings. Some people use them for barbecues, claiming the vine wood is the best for a barbecue. Italians say it is olive wood or laurel. The people round here say barbecues. I can’t see me having many barbecues of my own volition this summer – the IDEA of eating outside is nice, but bees/wasps/insects/mozzies/hens/dogs/cats are somewhat of a nuisance in reality, plus, there are about 4 days in the year when it’s not too hot outside to be slaving over a barbecue, when our beautifully cool house doesn’t offer a much nicer cooking arrangement – and it’s not too cold so that the house is warmer than it is outside. So saving my clippings for barbecues isn’t very useful.

Firestarting is though, so I’ve been boxing them up to start fires. With a handful of vine branches, you can have a perfect fire going relatively quickly. It’s easy to buy huge logs and medium sized logs and even little logs, but way more difficult to buy a bag of twigs, and unless you want to wander around looking for kindling much like Hansel or Gretel, then this is a vital part of the fire-making equation. So all of my clippings are going straight into the fire bins ready for October. How very sensible I am.

Our second row of broad beans has appeared, as have my early peas. I’ve got a row of broad beans in that I planted up that had been started off inside, and the same for a row of peas. Steve’s tomatoes have all sprouted, as have the chives and the cauliflower. Oh how I love this time of year!

I’ve spent a good couple of hours outside today, just chopping and pruning and binning up. I’m usually accompanied by a) The Chickens (who aren’t a patch on the former chickens who used to follow me around relentlessly) b) Noireau who likes to come outside if I’m outside and miaows like mental if I go out of his range and c) Tilly who doesn’t really want to be outside but is worried I might be finding things for her to eat or smell or roll in and doesn’t want to miss out. Sometimes, I feel like the Pied Piper. I’m sure I must make a comical sight, especially since I talk to Noireau all the time in French to reassure him and the chickens have taken up the habit of crouching down for petting. I am now a chicken-petting, French-cat-talking weirdo. But at least I’ve cut my vines back at an appropriate time!


4 thoughts on “Planning ahead

  1. What a beautiful picture you paint of the scene outside. Chopping, pruning and binning are my type of activities.. particularly pruning. It’s earned me the name “Edge the prune” chez nous!

    Do let us know how the vines perform after your excellently timed pruning..

    1. I’m more of a planting girl myself. So typical. I just realised this is precisely the sort of ‘starter’ enthusiast activity I used to do in the real world, and then my enthusiasm wanes a little. The pruning and chopping are not really my nature, though I confess to being more of an ant than a grasshopper…

  2. I too have been busy pruning, I would love to do it all at the correct time, but tend to do it in my time, so like you glad to have got it right! I make grape juice that I freeze in small water bottles – really don’t see the point in making shockingly bad wine when good stuff is so readily available. It is so nice to be out in the garden again.

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