Monday, February 2, 2009

Grapevine Tango

or maybe TaNgLe! Today was grapevine pruning day. We have some old growth grapevines (well, I'm not sure what constitutes old growth in the grape industry, but these are about 15) that have not been pruned in about 7 or so years. They were beautifully green this summer:

But they were so overgrown and crowded that we couldn't get to most of the fruit. You can also see that there are many dead shoots clogging the works. What this meant for us this last season was that we did not get to harvest or eat any of the fruit because the raccoons had marauded in the night and eaten them all before we could get to them.

So, today I began hard pruning the vines to get rid of all that old, dead growth and to thin the number of shoots that will remain and grow in the spring. I had not consulted my Pruning and Training guide prior to beginning my work today, but I did look at the grape pruning section this evening after I came into the house. I pruned by instinct and memory from past grapevines, and found that by default, I have chosen what AHS (American Horticulture Society) calls the Curtain Method. (see Pruning and Training, pp. 294.) I have found an informative article about grape pruning here, but it is a bit long and cumbersome with no photos. I also found an even better article about home grape production with clear diagrams from the University of Missouri Extension.

The best time for winter pruning is after the danger of most severe weather is over. I may be a little optimistic, but we have had clear, sunny days with highs in the mid to high 50s. Our overnight lows are still around 29-33 or so, but there is no snow anywhere on the horizon. Though there are still another 6 to 8 weeks of cold, the Almanac for this month does not point to anything that I found really alarming. So, a'pruning we will go, a'pruning we will go, da da da da da da, a'pruning we will go!
Basically, the curtain method keeps the central stem free of shoots, and the fruiting shoots are trained on the highest of the training wires. Our topmost wire is about 5.5' high. I have not completed the entire project, as I was running out of daylight and it was getting cold! My thought process in choosing this method is that the fruiting shoots are up high, and the fruit will hang down, but will be easily accessible to me, and less accessible to raccoons. They will also be easier to net from critters.

There is still more to do, and I am somewhat limited by the form and shape of these central stems, but I think this will work nicely and am looking forward to new growth to come! I can almost taste those juicy fruits now!
Happy Pruning!

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