grape troubles

this is long, but at least i try to be amusing. :) if you consider stepping on a rake and getting bonked in the head amusing...
zone 5, 1 vine, concord grapes, flat, windy, full sun, plenty of moisture through the spring (that is probably the biggest trouble i have with the clay/heavy soil).
it's about 20 ft from an east drainage ditch which runs all year. and about 5 feet from another trench that i just finished digging the River Nile (the south drainage ditch) down another foot and a half (and widened it too) so that will help keep that whole area a bit drier. that is about 3 feet deep from the level that the vine is at.
i cannot ammend the soil or build it up more as this is an established vine (well i could probably drill some holes and ammend that ways, but it would take years to make much difference) i think taking the drainage down another foot and a half will do as much.
in the past the vine was left in a heap on the ground, it was run over by a truck, mowed, and otherwise ignored. it grew fine and even had nice fruit in bunches without rot. not a ton of fruit, but no troubles with anything else.
then the formal gardens came in, and i thought a nice arbor to climb would be nice for it and all was good.
except it wasn't.
the surrounding area was covered with black plastic (to keep down weeds) and then the black plastic was covered with slats of wood to hold down the black plastic (not my idea, i hate plastic mulch).
the formal gardens also had plants added, some which brought and harbor rust and black spot fungal diseases. mulch, hollyhocks, roses, and rhubarb, which i thought didn't have troubles, but sometimes it gets spots of rust on it. only noticed it last year and this year.
then the black rot started taking out all the grapes. most of them started turning purple/brown and falling off before summer would be through. i think that came in heavy when we tried to get roses to grow in the clay (and used wood chips to mulch them). the roses are gone, the fungus just jumped ships (or chips to be more accurate).
i thought that perhaps the black plastic and wood slats were harboring the fungus spores from one year to the next. so last fall we took all that up and i buried the wood (which was heavily rotted anyways) and we threw away the black plastic (as it was heavily rotted too from sun exposure). and we stirred the dirt some to get at some of the weeds (raspberries and horsetail) so that gave the sun, cold, etc. a full fall/winter/spring to kill off the spores, but i figured there would still be some. i didn't spray the vine. i probably should have.
except this is clay, so the spores are probably quite happy there for a while yet...
only reading later (after it had already started growing out this spring) did i see that i probably should have sprayed it when the leaves were done and off. i pruned it severely as usual.
sure enough this spring was wet and long, we also had a late frost which left some dead leaves on the plant, the black rot came back a little, but i was hoping that the sun and air would take care of it as soon as it got hotter. well it isn't as bad as it could be -- it is still there. now along with it i have the remains of brown spotted leaves. this is a new trouble. hmm...
today i went out and removed as much of the black rot and the spotted brown leaves/stems as i could. there is enough healthy other leaves and it will have plenty of time to put on more growth (i probably removed half the mass of the plant -- it is a very healthy vine otherwise -- it really wants to produce and always sets a heavy crop but then i lose most of it). i thinned out the heavy areas to let more light and air get through and then i sprayed it as best i could with bordeaux mix (copper sulphate and calcium hydroxide) to knock the fungus back. we are due for some rain and my reading says that this is a good time to apply (you'd think not because the rain will wash some of it off but it will at least help keep some of the fungus from getting going again in the new moisture). and it has been higher humidity lately, so i suspect that is not going to help.
the good news is that there is plenty of leaves that have no sign of rot of any kind, so i think i may get some fruit to ripen.
ok, all that history and finally some questions:
i'm still getting flowers on it (this has been a crazy weather year that is for sure) will there be enough time for them to ripen? our first frost date here is probably around mid Sept to early Oct. or should i prune them off?
i imagine i will have to keep spraying fungicides on it until the spores finally burn out in the surrounding area (and those on the plant itself which are in the crooks of the branches and the bark). am i in for years or will things ease off next year if i spray more this season and once the leaves fall off again?
i'm hoping to keep the spraying to the elementals (copper sulphate, dusting sulfur, etc) and spot trim what i can out if it seems to stay local. should i spray the surrounding grassy areas and along the ditch too? that seems excessive, but there are wild grapes growing there (quite happily it seems as i have to keep fighting them off). it seems rather intense to spray so much but i'd like to be able to actually get more than a few bunches from this vine.
i may have lost the war this season by starting spraying too late, but i hope it will at least help knock it back for next year and beyond.
also, i'm getting some fading in some of the leaves, there is no curl or other signs of trouble, but i'm thinking that it is a natural reaction to having the black plastic removed and having a large part of the root system suddenly having to deal with a whole different environment (hotter and dryer since it is now exposed to the sun) and it will have to figure it out. if we get no rain tonight i will have to water it good tomorrow...
sound reasonable as a conclusion?
another idea was to plant a new vine of something more resistant to fungal problems, but i'd be planting it in the same location and there would be an overlap -- it would have to be resistant enough to overcome the already problematic area. i don't think that would work, but i consider that the remote approach if spraying for a few years and keeping a closer eye on things doesn't help matters.
anything else obvious i'm not seeing here (besides giving up on this vine completely?). i can't really start over some other place on the property with the current layout.
thanks for your insights, heckles or otherwise random comments. :)
if you managed to make it all the way through that without wanting to take a nap congratulations! you must be a gardener... :)
songbird
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zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . huh?
I'm gonna have to read this again but my first take is that you need to trim this down to less than 24 buds (that should have been done in February/March). Strike that. Where you are, I'd go for 12 buds (for this year). This vine seems to have some game, I'd hate to see it whacked unnecessarily. The less fruit, the earlier the fruit will ripen. Even if it doesn't, the vine will be back producing fruit, even if it isn't ripe.
Concord is native American, so it will be used to your conditions. You've sulfured it. Drop excess crop (clip off clusters). Cut tops and sides (6' X 3') to let sun and wind in to dry the leaves, and then let it do its thing. Catch it early next year and do it right. Prune while it is dormant. Spray with a fungicide. Leave 24 buds (for wine, or more if they are to be eaten fresh), cross your fingers, and it should all work out. This can also be run up an arbor over an al fresco dinning area for summer use (typical northern Italian style).
--
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I'm not a vineyardist. I see grapes after they are harvested. With that said,

Depending on the amount of wind, flapping leaves can break the skin of the grape, allowing for a point of infection. Any chance of a wind break?

What is the problem? Your vine sounds vigorous.

How wet is the soil? Concords are pretty durable.

What kind of amendments do you want to add?

If the garden is a source of fungal problems, then it needs to be removed or sprayed.

Yeah.
Should be pruned before bud break.

Probably need to reapply every 10 to 14 days, if you have rain.

You making wine or eating as fresh fruit? You are border line for wine. Keep spraying. If mold gets into the flowers, the grapes will rot from the inside out.

It should abate, but need to spray is in the spring befor bud break.

Concords are very sensitive to sulfur.

I'd spray the ornamentals that you think are the source of the fungus.

A Gardeners always plan for next year ;O)

Seems that it would have been hotter and drier under black plastic. Black plastic is used for solarization, and keeps the rain out.

?You dug channels to dry out the soil, and now you are watering it? Unless there is something that I am missing, I'd say don't water it.

Concords are already, pretty resistant.

You may want to browse through <http://ipmnews.msu.edu/fruit/Fruit/tabid/123/articleType/ArticleView/art icleId/92/Fungicide-update-for-berries-and-grapes.aspx> Some don't seem too bad, except for fish, so I'd worry a little about your system of canals.
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Billy wrote:

i enjoy intelligent(etc hee) written conversations with random strangers (thus internet :) ).

no, i don't think it is that kind of trouble, i think that would leave a raised scar on the grape itself and in most cases when the rot happens it just turns color (greyish brown) and then drops off. often it spreads to surrounding grapes too if i don't catch it early enough.
it is very strange that i can have some grapes infected and others right next to them left alone and eventually they ripen (and then i have to fend off the raccoons and birds to get them for me but i have a net for that).

it is, it grows great. until the fungus gets it.

all spring it is very wet unless we have a very rare dry spring. during the winter that area is sometimes heavily wet too because of the snow and runoff from the neighboring field:
http://www.anthive.com/flowers/water.jpg
if you look at this pic you see the drainage ditch is full and that is the River Nile that i dug another foot and a half down and widened (last week). the River Nile runs right past the grape vine another 30 feet back from the top left corner of the picture, but the grape vine is up a bit from grade or the water level (it would flood the entire back area and formal gardens if it were to actually flood the grape).

it would only be to raise the entire area further to get it higher above grade. so i would be adding sandy loam and any random organics mixed in, but it would have to be gradual as i don't want to disturb the root zone faster than the grape can acclimate. i would in fact like to raise the entire formal enclosed garden area, but that isn't going to happen and so instead i am raising selected beds and installing better drainage for the pathways as i work on different areas. it is a work in progress as we change from all perennials/ornamentals to growing more fruits and veggies.

removed is impossible. it's 100ft by 60ft (approx -- i should measure it some day :) ) and the perennials already in place are there to stay (within some reason :) ). i can spray, but it is a large area, so i'm not sure yet what my radius will have to be. i'm exploring my options (thus the original post :) ). also there is the ditch which is mixed grasses/weeds and that cannot be moved, but i can spray whatever looks to be hosting the black rot and brown spot if i can see it.

next year! :)

i prune it twice, the fall pruning was to get as much of the remaining left over twigs and bunch twigs (don't know what else to call these but they are what is left after all the grapes have fallen off) or any trapped and bunched up leaves removed to make sure there aren't places for harboring fungus spores... also this fall pruning is an initial idea of what shape i want to work towards for the following growing season, but i know i will lose some more to the winter cold so it is not a final pruning. i prune again in the spring once or twice. this year i pruned twice (once before budding to delay it as much as i could). the second pruning was after the frost damage to get some of the dead stuff off, but i didn't get it all...

:) it just started raining. finally.

that is perhaps the problem here is that the remaining spores are still plentiful enough that the bunches are going to rot no matter what. we'll see what happens. :)
the grapes are for eating (i love 'em fresh) and for jam making. not wine.

yeah, next year's agenda contains this item.

we shall see how this first round goes and then evaluate for the next round.
i'm always thinking in layers. :)

the entire yard is full of them, so i'm not going to be able to do that. i'm going to have to narrow it down better and do more observing. we've removed and replaced some of the source of the black rot by removing the wood and the plastic mulch, but i'm suspecting it will be a few years before it drops off.
i'm also considering other types of spraying (compost tea) to help get more beneficial organism in the problematic areas to help fight off the fungal spores (or at least make it harder for them to propagate). i know there will always be fungus and such around and in fact i'm quite happy knowing it is around and doing what it should be doing just not on my grapes. :)

heh, i'm actually always daydreaming about what i'd like to do if i were king. instead i am just a helper and can make "recommendations" to the management. sometimes i get listened to and other times i am overruled and must cope.

it had plenty of holes in it and was mostly covered with slats of wood (i buried about 2 cu yds of mostly rotted wood).

the digging is to aid the rest of the surrounding area (see that pic) and the grapes are near the SE corner where the two ditches meet. it is a little higher there so the channel goes past it. the channel is about 100ft long. without that channel (and the one next to the farm field and the wall i built up there with some dirt) the formal gardens would really be under water even more in the spring than they already are.
the picture is showing the spot that is right next to the SW corner of the enclosed formal gardens (where we have our veggies and bulbs and other things that the deer and rabbits would otherwise eat).

supposedly, but it's been 15 years or so since this vine was planted and perhaps there is now a better version available...

thanks, i'm taking a look at that now. ok, yes it looks like it is Black Rot (both the brown spots on the leaves and the way the berries deteriorate). it doesn't look like it is anything else (not Bunch Rot - i.e. Botrytis).
re: stupidity on my part (learning...)
it looks like my spraying will not have helped the situation as much as i'd hoped. i probably will get more help from the trimming off the infected leaves which will reduce the continued spread from rain splashes. spraying something more effective (now that i have a good chart) might happen later, but i will wait to see if it's indicated further by more spots.
re drainage:
one of my general qualms with doing more drainage here is that i like having some areas that collect and soak up the rainwater to help offset whatever we are pulling out of the ground via the well and also because we have a septic field i want some water going in the ground between that and the well. even if we are down plenty deep i still like the idea of replacing whatever we are using on the general principle of the matter.
we aren't really in any danger of the ground going dry here (the ditch runs almost the entire summer no matter how dry it gets) and the neighbor behind us has a large pond so i think we're fine, i just like to put some clean water back in the ground to counteract whatever the farmers are doing all around us. it's just a drop in the bucket, but...
adding more drainage to the River Nile wasn't what i wanted to do (it's the low area where the well is sited), but the formal gardens, pathways and the decorated clear areas (with the limestone gravel) get too weedy when the water runs over it from the South farm field. and i don't want the enclosed gardens flooded any more if i can help it too. when i get the chance i raise them up higher and improve the pathway drainage, but it's patchwork at best.
a proper site plan before the gardens were put in could have avoided a ton of problems (and many hours of digging and redoing), but they really didn't plan on gardening, but once Ma got going... :)
i guess it's more challenging this way. heh. :)
well, ok, thanks for listening and replying, i'm continuing to learn here, when i grew grapes last time i didn't have any of this sort of trouble. south facing sandy loam there and no ditches within 100ft. i had four vines which produced nicely until they were cut back too far (i was away at college) and then the place was sold.
songbird
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