Renewable Farming

Grape grower: “Healthier grapes with WakeUP in our program”

Jerry Saucke of Janesville, IA is gradually filling up open land in his acreage with multiple varieties of grapes. It’s a hobby, a passion. Today as we picked Concords for grape jelly, he assured me:  “On a day like today, nobody could offer enough to move me out of this home… and my grapes.”

Jerry Saucke’s grapes

Three years ago we encouraged Jerry to spray his grapes at least a couple of times each season with WakeUP Spring, for the purpose of mobilizing sugars through the vines and increasing nutrient flow.  He’s a retired builder, and cherishes his secluded acres in northeast Iowa.

“I didn’t get every vine sprayed, every year,” he told us today. “And where I didn’t, the grapes looked a lot more beaten up with fungus and lower vigor.”

He theorizes, and we concur, that improved mineralization in the vines strengthened natural immunity — because WakeUP Spring is not a fungicide.  

“I have one variety that’s very susceptible to black rot. If we treat it well, including WakeUP, the leaves apparently can defend themselves,”  Jerry noted.

With healthy vines and decent weather, the main threat to Saucke’s grapes are deer and birds. He installed an electric fence to guard against deer, and keeps vines netted to ward off some of the bird invasions.  When we picked, I saw very few insects — just an occasional ladybug.

The Concord grapes we harvested today tested 17 and 18 brix.  “It’s hard not to keep eating them when I’m picking,” Jerry said… and I had to agree.

With 20 pounds of grapes at home this evening, most will go to our family members here, Jeanene and Erik, for conversion into exquisite grape jelly.

Some, we’re juicing through the Angel juicer. You can almost float on the aroma.

Several years ago, we developed a beautiful walk-through grape arbor and trained white table grapes to wrap all over the sides and top. It was a joy to sit in the shade and pick delicious grapes. Then one year at the peak of productivity for those vines, a brisk breeze swept in herbicide drift from the neighboring crop fields. We never knew what the chemical was. The grapes simply died.  We tried cutting back to the rootstock, but they never recovered.

Fortunately, Jerry Saucke’s vineyards — several acres — are secluded a quarter-mile from croplands. 

These are some of the perks of working with growers of all kinds who really appreciate healthy, delicious food!

Jerry Saucke and one of his grapevines

Published Sept. 21, 2015 by Jerry Carlson