ANZ's Farms

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pruning Grapevines

Last year, we planted several varieties of grapes, mostly muscadine and scuppernong, and built the two-wire fences for support. We planted in the hill behind the garden. The space allowed for two vines per fence, 8 feet apart. The lower wire was place about a foot above ground, the upper wire 1.5 feet above that. The end posts were buried deep into the gound at an angle in anticipation of vines laden with clusters of jucy grapes in the future.
The first year, we let the vines grow freely. (And the weeds grew freely, too. I plan to do a better job of weed control and mulching this year!) Now it is time to prune them, both in terms of the life of the vines and the season of the year. Pruning should be done in late winter/early spring before buds begin to swell. I visited the vineyard of a local winery last fall after the harvest and took pictures of what the vines should look like down the road. Here is the goal: (courtesy of Rock of Ages Winery in Hurdle Mills, NC)
Vines grown in this manner -- on a two wire fence -- are pruned using the Kniffen System. The purpose of pruning this year is to establish a strong central stem from which branches will extend onto the wire. Storey's _Basic Country Skills_ instructs to cut off all branches to form this single stem. Then, later this year as the branches begin to grow, select four side branches and train them to grow on the wires (two on each side, one on the upper wire and one on the lower wire). Pinch off all other branches from the stem and buds on the branches. One source recommends leaving a spare branch or two just in case. Spares can be cut off when the main branches are established.
Armed with knowledge and sharp pruning shears, I am ready to begin.  This degree of pruning is not for the faint hearted. It was encouraging to read that there is a large margin for error and that foraging animals have been known to do a good job of pruning. Surely I can do at least as well.

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