Thursday, 13 May 2010
Frost attacks the Vineyard
For the second night running the vineyard has suffered a fairly severe frost causing damage to buds and leaves on the vines. Were not sure how much damage has been done but it will become apparent during the next few days as leaves will appear burnt and buds will shrivel and fall off where the frost has attacked them.
New shoots will appear in a few weeks time but they won't be as vigerous or fruitful as the first ones. This doesn't matter too much this year but next year (our first cropping year) it could significantly reduce yield and leave less time for the fruit to ripen.
Severe frost this late in the year is unusual in Surrey but we will have to make sure that from next year onwards we are well prepared to minimise any damage. This may involve using bougies (french for candle - a sort of oil lamp) which are placed in the rows every 12 metres. By my calculation we would need over 3000! Alternatively there are machines called frostbusters but they are expensive. Spraying the vines with water in the early hours so that a protective layer of ice forms around the buds can also be effective but it requires an enormous volume of water and is therefore not very environmentally friendly.
So that we know how low the temperature is getting we will be installing a simple weather centre with a mobile phone connection which will send a warning alarm to me and Alex when the temperature is getting too low. This will inevitably mean a few early mornings in years to come as we will have to be up at about 3.00am to light the bougies or spray the fines!
Experiments are taking place with electrical and microwave heaters which we will investigate further.