death tolerance

July 3, 2011

One of the worst things about growing stuff is having to deal with the fact that some things die. It might be something you did, but just as often it’s the conditions or the location. If you’re going to enjoy the miracle of things making it through a winter like this:

Then you have to deal with things that you love failing to thrive. I do not like dealing with this. I think it is a swiz.

One of the most vigorous, prolific plants in my garden is the grape vine. M planted it as a little stick from Crest Hardware a few weeks before he died. Last summer it moved up onto a pergola some friends built for me.

Even in the burning heat of July 2010, it produced over 35 pounds of grapes–green, seedless, sweet, crush-against-the-roof-of-your-mouth.

This spring and summer, it has continued to go hog-wild, despite strong pruning.
Grapes appeared everywhere, to the point that I began to feel a little panicked about how I would harvest them all. Finally I decided I would have a grape-picking party and invite everyone I knew. People could bring containers, clippers, ladders, beers, whatever. Everyone would get grapes, and I wouldn’t have to do all the work. Now all I had to do was wait for the grapes to ripen. Problem solved!

Except two weeks ago I noticed that a few grapes had shriveled. I began to feel a deep secret dread that my grapes had some kind of rot. It took me almost a week to make myself go out there and actually examine them. Sure enough, they have a fungal problem.
Trying not to freak out, I consulted the internets, but most of what I read was targeted towards vineyards and thus was overkill for a one-vine home grower like me. Finally, I consulted the gurus at Crest.

Should I cut off all the infected grape bunches?! I asked. Guru Vincent didn’t think much of this idea. He suggested I just leave them alone and salvage what I could at harvest. It was the warm, damp weather, he said. Even if I cut off every bit of fungus I could find, there was nothing saying more wouldn’t grow if conditions favored it. But maybe, he said, the weather would improve, and then some grapes would make it. I’m a pretty lazy gardener, he confessed. I’d just leave it.

I consulted Guru Regina, and she concurred. You can’t fight the weather, she reasoned. I stood with Regina beside the gaffer tape and summarized: So, I said, you’re saying I should just let the grapes be, watching some die and hoping death won’t overcome all of them?

Pretty much, Regina said.

So, I clarified, this is a DEATH TOLERANCE exercise?

Pretty much, Regina said.

If I had know my garden was going to give me a Death Tolerance exercise this summer, I woulda… well I woulda told it where to go! I woulda kicked it with my boots and showed it who was boss! And then…! I guess it woulda done what it was going to do anyway.

One Response to “death tolerance”

  1. gardener said

    update: the grapes have stabilized. grape picking may yet happen, fingers crossed. the gurus were right.

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