At this time of the year all the effort is on summer maintenance. As April turns to May the buds burst, starting as delicate pink blobs, which open out to form the young pinky-green shoots. These grow rapidly, producing leaves, and tiny flower buds. The vines attempt to form more buds than are wanted, particularly as so much of the top growth has been pruned off, and with it most of the buds the plant was planning to produce. In spring buds appear down the main stems, and also the root stock will be trying desperately to propagate by putting up suckers (most of our vines were grafted on to a different root stock from the main plant). In late April/early May these unwanted buds are removed by brushing them off with a gloved hand. The tractor work then begins with mulching the vine prunings. The mulcher is like a large mower, but it chops up the grass and vine stems into small pieces so that everything will rot down quickly and return as much goodness as possible to the soil.

A young vine bud on the point of burst

In July the flowers burst forth, but a vineyard in bloom is not quite as exotic as one might imagine because vine flowers have no petals. Most vines are hermaphrodites and each flower bears both the male and female sexes - hence they are self-pollinating. We require good sunny weather without rain and just the gentlest of breezes for pollination. Unfortunately at just about the critical time for us groups of rain worshippers converge on a town called Wimbledon and engage in an ancient rain-making ceremony, uttering heathen ritualistic sayings such as 'You must be joking ref.!'


A young shoot with a bunch of flower buds on it



A vine flower showing the central female pistil and the male stamens with their pollen caps


After pollination the set flower undergoes a tremendous transformation to become the mature berry - the grape. Tractor tasks are:





As the season progresses preparations begin for harvest, but that is the next part of the story.