Pruning

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shrewsbury

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First off I would like to give thanks to the forum for all the help with fungicides. I now have a solid plan in place for next year.

Now I am thinking about how I pruned last winter and how my vines look this year.
In 2016 I planted 120 vidal blanc and they had some serious high vigor. Last winter I pruned them. I pruned them by following the main trunk up, most went almost the full length of my wire on one side or the other, I cut them off when they started to get close to a pencil thickness and then I cut off every other branch, as close to the trunk as possible.
At this time they are worse off than the first year. I would guess each vine has close to 10 branches coming off with numerous shoots and more grapes than I can bear to look at.
I will also admit that earlier in the year when I seen what they were doing I cut off numerous shoots and clusters. I have also recently been cutting off huge clusters of grapes, most way bigger than my hand, and composting them. 5 plants filled three 5 gallon buckets. My thought is that the vines are only in the second year and should not be using its energy on producing grapes.
What did I do wrong in pruning last winter?
Is it possible to prune after bud swell to get rid of unwanted growth?
Should I be cutting of my grape clusters? and should I have done that earlier in the year?
 

BigH

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Disclaimer: I am a total noob who has never worked with vinifera grapes. My advice is based on what I have learned in 4 years of doing this, and reading these forums religiously in that time.

Buds on 1 year old wood are fruit bearing buds. Since your entire vine is one year old, every bud you kept was capable of growing clusters.

Ok, so what should you have done? I am a little fuzzy on the "every other branch" pruning. Does that mean that you kept a bunch of laterals off the main trunk?

Many in this group advocate cutting the entire vine back to 2 or 3 buds going into year 2. Grapeman is a big advocate of this approach. I followed that advice on about half of my vineyard in year two. Pruning invigorates the vine (seems counter intuitive at first), so this type of heavy pruning results in rapid growth in year two. This approach worked well for me except for my La Crescent and a few St Croix vines. They were too vigorous in year two and tended to produce bull canes for trunks. In hindsight, I would have retained more buds on those vines in year two by keeping pencil thick wood that could form a trunk.

If you weren't going to follow the chop it almost to the ground approach, then you probably should have retained only the trunk and used the top buds to grow cordons this year. Lower laterals on the trunk should have all been pruned close to the trunk. Lower shoots that emerged from the trunk in the spring should have been rubbed off early in the season to force the plant's energy into your future cordons. You would have had 4 clusters per vine or so to deal with, which you could have either snipped off early in the year, or kept for experimental purposes. Most people advocate snipping them off. My personal opinion is that it would depend on how fertile your soil is and whether you have seen any evidence of excess vigor or bull canes. The clusters could be used as a tool to de-vigor the vines in year two if needed. Kicker canes can also be used for that, and might be wiser.

Ok, so enough about what you should have done. What do you do now? There are only a few options:

  1. get all those clusters off now
  2. thin some of the clusters and let the rest ripen to harvest
  3. keep just about everything

Before you decide, it would be helpful to answer a few questions. Have your clusters reached veraison? How much growing season do you have left? When would this variety normally be harvested in your area? Have you invested in a refractomer, pH meter, and a kit for measuring TA?

So let's think about option 1. Why remove those guys? The only reason to remove them is vine health. Will ripening the crop that you have set you back next year? Are you sapping energy that should go elsewhere? Is there enough growing season left for this option to do any good? You say that you have a bunch of clusters and a lot of vegetative growth. Since you have a lot of vegetation, it sounds like the plant is in balance, and you haven't over cropped it. Not yet anyway.

If the berries have not reach veraison or just recently did, and you have solid month or more of growing season left in your area, then removing them might be the best approach.

I like option 2 or 3 if they are already well past veraison and starting to taste sweet. Use your mistake as an opportunity to learn for next year, especially if removing them won't help the vine's health much. Measure your brix and pH the same way that you will next year. Might as well learn how all that works now. Make some wine if you get enough of a crop.

PS: my advice assumes that you will be able to find some usable cordons to keep for next year out of all that growth from this summer.

H
 
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balatonwine

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Two things I will add:

1) I highly recommend you purchase a copy of a good general "getting started" reference book on the subject, such as Jeff Cox's "From Vines to Wine". It has in it, for example, an excellent pictorial description how to prune each year. For example, from his book, this is how you should have pruned this spring if the vine had reached the wire:



That is, this year you should have cut off everything but 5 buds. Then from the this second year's growth, shown on the right in the image above, you then keep only two canes, and cut everything else off during the next (third year) of pruning.

2) And regarding the questions if you should I have cut off grape clusters earlier: The answer is "yes".

The reason is, all growing things really just want to reproduce, so will try as soon as possible to reproduce as much as it can. And grapes are just a vines way of making seeds, wrapped in a bird edible package so birds can disperse the seeds.

However, the problem with this natural tendency for early reproduction is it puts a lot of the plant's energy into reproduction, and doing this too soon and too much weakens the plant overall. So much so, it might even end up weakening the plant that it dies from winter temps or next years drought. That is, a plant has no concept of long term planning. So as far as a plant is concerned, next year does not exist (as it may die), so it tries to do as much as possible as soon as possible. But this also weakens the vine and ultimately shortens its potential life span.

But to the grape farmer, there is long term planning. A farmer does not let the plant do what is its default nature. The farmer wants the vine to grow strong and healthy first, and to put all its energy into growing strong roots and a healthy trunk. So for the first two or three years the farmer cuts off all grape clusters the moment they appear (long before they even flower). Doing this, and delaying the first fruit development, not only improves the quality of the first fruit allowed to develop, but also means the vine can end up living a much longer, productive life overall.
 
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shrewsbury

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Thanks to everyone for their input.
I have a few questions still.

I am guessing the term "rub out" means I should have on my leather gloves and literally rub the unwanted bud off, is this correct?

As for a good book, are their any other suggestions?

Thanks again
Jay
 

Johny99

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Thanks to everyone for their input.
I have a few questions still.

I am guessing the term "rub out" means I should have on my leather gloves and literally rub the unwanted bud off, is this correct?
Jay
Yes. Leather is nice, but be ready anytime you walk your vineyard. Rub, pinch whatever to get it off.

As for books, I too like from Vines to Wines. If you can find a copy of Winkler's General Vitaculture, it is just that and very helpful.

Jim Law's The Backyard Vintner is basic, but a good basic primer.
 

BigH

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As for a good book, are their any other suggestions?
I like Dr Tom Zabadal's grape vine videos. A lot of the pruning advice from the books just didn't sink in for me until I saw the videos.

https://www.youtube.com/user/Viticultureinfo

From Vines to Wines is good, but he has some downright corny advice in there that you should probably ignore (ie renting a backhoe)

H
 
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shrewsbury

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I like Dr Tom Zabadal's grape vine videos. A lot of the pruning advice from the books just didn't sink in for me until I saw the videos.

https://www.youtube.com/user/Viticultureinfo

From Vines to Wines is good, but he has some downright corny advice in there that you should probably ignore (ie renting a backhoe)

H
been watching those videos, wow there is a lot of content. Thanks for the link!
 

balatonwine

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From Vines to Wines is good, but he has some downright corny advice in there that you should probably ignore (ie renting a backhoe)
Yes, it is written in a "popular" style. And there are some corny bits.

But the bit about excavators was regarding soil prep, and that is not necessarily a bad suggestions depending on one's soils.

Personally, I have hired an excavator to do minor land leveling, clear out old existing vines, remove trees/bushes, and then do the drilling to plant.

[ame]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9BFxf1cdFo[/ame]

[ame]https://vimeo.com/62689283[/ame]
 
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