About a year ago I wrote an article about how Mother Nature gave us a run for our money by May. And while this year’s winter was more of your typical Cleveland winter and spring, we sure have had a number of changes in the weather. While the weather held out for bud break in late April and early May, the vineyard did not fare well in the frost we had a couple of weeks ago. So as we clean up from the frost damage and look forward to next year, I thought I would share some ways to avoid damage in the future.
If you travel to some of the larger wineries you will see that they might have wind machines that are used to keep the vineyards warmer and therefore prevent a frost. Other wineries might use a temperature sensitive sprinkler which will turn on and off when the temperature drops below 34 degrees.
Unfortunately, many preventative options come with a large price tag which can be a challenge for small vineyard owners. Some of our winery guests have suggested that we follow the “romantic” frost protection options in movies like “A Walk in the Clouds” and have bonfires throughout the vineyards to keep them warm. While I don’t mind a good bonfire, the risk of having our vineyard catch on fire is more than I am willing to take.
So what does a small vineyard owner do when the threat of frost is announced? Depending on the size of your vineyard you can always cover the vines to keep the warmth in. Similar to covering your plants or flowers during a frost, large tarps can be used to cover the vines. Another way is to coat your vineyard with a layer of ice. I am not a chemist so I do not understand the technical side of why this works, but essentially as the water freezes it releases latent heat. Someone once explained it to me this way: As ice melts, energy must be added to the ice (usually in the form of heat). So when you reverse the process, the water must release that energy. As the water freezes on the vines, that release of energy gets trapped between on the vines and forms a layer to protect the vines.
If you are going to freeze your vines, you will need to continually spray your vines until there is a layer of ice on them. Just be sure your hoses and sprayers can reach all areas of your vineyard. Once the vines are frozen you can get some rest but then be sure to be back out spraying the vines in the morning before the sun comes up so you can help the vines adjust back to the current temperatures.
Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville. For more information on other winery topics, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com