The Farhner Homestead

 » Ben Farhner

January 2018 Garden Prep

As we gear up for our first year in the garden, there’s still a lot of cleanup to be done. This month we’ve heavily pruned the existing grape vines, which had climbed up the nearby curly willow and some of which were in excess of 20 feet long! This past fall, we had grape clusters throughout the willow tree and even on the power line; this next year we should have a much more accessible grape crop.

The Glenora grape vine after a lot of pruning. There’s still one large vine going up into the willow that needs to be pruned, and the trellis is in poor shape.

There’s also still a lot of trash that needs to be pulled out of the garden area. There are lots of ties, posts, and other materials that we don’t need or want in the garden; old fencing, lengths of bamboo, and other lumber that have succumbed to the elements; and miscellaneous landscape bricks, buckets, and garbage cans that need to be moved and cleaned up or thrown away. We certainly have our work cut out for us!

Behind the garden shed where the Bath and Steuben grape vines live, after some major pruning and cleanup. The vines need even more pruning, and the trellis here needs some work as well.

One piece of exciting news is that during cleanup we found tags on all 3 grape vines telling us what the varieties are and when they were planted:

  • Bath, planted May 1, 2003. The tag says “wine grape,” but this seeded variety is apparently more typically used as a table grape and for jelly or juice.
  • Steuben, planted May 1, 2003. This is a very cold hardy, seeded, hybrid variety that is also multipurpose, good for wine as well as eating and jelly.
  • Glenora, planted May 1, 2003. This is a seedless variety that appears to be primarily a table grape, although the tag for this one says “seedless wine grape.”

I’m looking forward to renovating these vines and getting better yields from them, and also trying to make wine from all 3 varieties to see how they taste.

Tag from the Bath grape vine.

Also, we technically did this back in December after Christmas, but we also began renovating our overgrown apple tree, starting with a heavy pruning. It’ll probably take a few years to get it really healthy and producing well, so we wanted to make sure to start renovating it as soon as possible. We’re not sure exactly what variety of apple it is; it produces large yellow apples with a softer flesh, but they taste good and are at least good for applesauce! We’re going to try pressing them for juice and hard cider as well.

Before and after pruning the apple tree.

We’re also spending time looking through seed catalogs and putting together lists of what we’d like to grow in the garden this year. There’s a lot that we want to experiment with, so we’ll see how much we get done this year, but we’re very excited to start producing our own food, and restoring and improving our small patch of land!