Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Year's Tradition: Pruning the Grape Vines

I don't know how it started. Each year within a few days of New Year's day, I prune the grape vines. This year, new year's day was not possible, but yesterday was close enough. Pruning in Spring, after the sap starts to flow, leads to dripping of sap as it continues to run for a few days or week. That doesn't happen with mid-winter pruning. Plus, it's a nice chore to do for puttering meditation.

Most years I have gone with a combination of spur and cane methods, since I wasn't sure which was best. Last year they were quite productive, and it didn't seem to make much difference whether it was cane or spur pruning. I think that they may have over-grown the arbor, so this year, it's all spur pruning.

It's interesting how soon the trunks developed a gnarled, established look. I like that.

My approach with the spur pruning was to leave about 4-6 inches of growth from 2008, and remove the rest. That means that I removed about 95% of last year's growth. I left 2 to 4 buds in most cases. Most grapes seem to bloom from buds forming on last year's growth, and most from the first few buds on the cane. If I'm wrong about that, then this will not be a productive grape year. But I think that I'm right. We'll see.

This arbor has 3 vines: Interlaken (my favorite), Canadice (the most productive) and Venus (a nice change of pace).

I was more aggressive with Canadice, since it was too productive. That meant that the grapes were smaller, and there were too many. I left more of the Interlaken, since it is my favorite. Two vines would have been plenty on this arbor, but I wanted 3 varieties.

Over the gate, Price grape. Also very tasty, larger grapes in smaller bunches. Price has not been very productive so far. Squirrels eat the flower buds. In 2008 I added some screening, which deterred the squirrels somewhat. I'll have to do that this year as well.

Price was also pruned mainly as 2 to 4 bud spurs. Last year it was too unruly, so I was more aggressive this time.

The prunings were chopped into pieces about 3 to 4 inches long, and applied as a mulch around some shrubs. Last year, I did the same thing, but then applied compost on top of the grape vine mulch. That resulted in numerous small grapevines growing from the chopped pieces. This time, I'll leave the chopped vines on top so that I don't get unintended starts.

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