Tying Up Venus

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tie This Mess Up!
Hey now!!! All the Young Dudes have suddenly jumped up, tuned in and taken notice! Mix one part vegetable gardening with two parts of tying up Venus? Finally -- I'm about to embark on a perhaps not-safe-for-work blog post that All the Young Dudes can finally sink their teeth into!
Boy -- are they ever going to be disappointed.
Wife That Is Venus with The Venus Table Grape
This blog posting is about tying up Venus. Not the wife that is Venus. But rather, just Venus. So who is Venus all the young dudes sing out in a perfect chorus of curiosity? Venus isn't a "who." Venus is a "what." The Venus I am referring too is the Venus table grape variety that occupies one small corner of the Bird Back 40. No -- I am not tying the wife that is Venus to the fence. For any reason.
And suddenly, blog readership slipped back to the normal levels of 2.34 fans -- as All the Young Dudes have used their mouse or iPhones to click back to more interesting endeavors like that hot cheerleaders posting on their favorite sports forums.
All the Young Dudes can't be bothered with topics such as gardening.
Neglected Venus Table Grape Vine
My friends, it may be a tad early this year just like it was last year. But there's no denying that "spring has sprung." Ye olde calendar sitting on the wall stubbornly claims to the fact that we're still in the dead of winter. But there's no denying what is taking place before our very eyes. The trees and vines that provide us with fresh, lip-smacking fruit choices throughout the summer months have awoken from their winter slumber.
What does this mean? In gardening terms -- it means it's time to "get busy." And, no, that doesn't mean "get busy" with the wife that is Venus. Although she probably wouldn't mind. Nope, in this case? My attention is drawn to that Venus table grape variety that I planted several years ago when I installed rows of table grapes in the Bird Back 40.
Venus Table Grape in 2013
It's safe to say that the wife that is Venus is unique. So is the table grape that is Venus. It's at least unique to California. Not many people grow it locally. Developed by Dr. J.N. Moore and released in 1977 by the Arkansas Agricultural Research Station connected to the University of Arkansas, the Venus table grape is the only non-California grape that grows in the Bird Back 40.
And you thought California held a patent on all things grapes? Not so fast...
Venus Table Grape Cluster
The Venus table grape took some time to get established to our California climate, which is decidedly different from Arkansas. It grew a total of ONE FOOT in Year One after planting, when most table grapes will grow five to ten feet. The next year, the very unimpressive Venus table grape grew an additional foot, giving us a total of TWO FEET of growth in two years.
What a LOSER!
But -- little did I know. The Venus was merely taking its time. Because, in year three, when I dutifully paid all attention to the California table grape varieties that were growing quite well in the Bird Back 40 and all but ignored the Venus -- the Venus decided that it liked California. It liked California in a very big way.
Step One: Install and Bolt Trellis to Fence
Suddenly -- the vine that I had ignored and failed to trellis or even stake for that matter suddenly TOOK OFF. It had taken two years to grow two feet. But in Year 3? The Venus vine grew two feet in a week. It grew and it grew and it grew until it finally grew into the neighbor's yard -- six feet up a fence and it kept right on growing. By the time I thought of even adding a support for the Venus vine, it was already too late. The monster had emerged. The monster was on a rampage.
But the Venus did more than just grow. It produced its first crop of table grapes. And it produced them FAR earlier than Bill or the wife that is Venus EVER expected. Ripe table grapes in JUNE? Two to three months before the "California only" vines produced a batch of ripened table grapes? Can it be so?
Yeah, so...
Step Two: Tie Vines to Trellis
This year I was determined not to make the same mistake. I would not ignore the Venus Table Grape. I would not ignore the wife that is Venus. And so -- on one sunny Sunday afternoon -- I attached a trellis to the fence located closest to the Venus -- bolted it down so it wouldn't bend or break under the weight of 50 lbs. of table grapes and proceeded to tie up every last vine I could find.
Since I had made no effort to tie up last year's growth -- separating new wood from the old proved to be difficult. Was that particular vine last year's growth or the year before it? Did that branch produce fruit last year? If I came to the decision that it had -- it got pruned back. But it was tough to tell. Vines and branches that produced fruit the previous year will not be as giving in Year 2, which is why you want to preserve the shoots and branches that grew last year but did not produce. They will become this year's fruit producers.
Step Three: Enjoy Drinks
The end result is a Venus table grape vine that has suddenly erupted with new green growth as the calendar churned from February to March. The Venus gets an earlier start to the season than most table grapes. While the California varieties slumber away -- Venus is on a mission. This is probably why it ripens up so early in the season.
As far as taste is concerned -- I would put Venus on the same level as Black Monukka or Suffolk Red. It's not the best in the Bird Back 40. No -- that claim has been staked by Fantasy and Diamond Muscat, two of the finest tasting table grapes on the planet bar none.
But nothing beats fresh table grape production in late June and early July -- a solid month and a half before the California vines reach maturity. That's what makes the Venus table grape so special and why it's earned a deserved spot in the pantheon of fruit production gracing the Bird Back 40.
The wife that is Venus agrees. The Venus table grape is a keeper.

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