Rescued vineyard, following 3 vines, pruned differently.

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NorCal

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I would like to preface this thread by saying that I’m no expert, but I‘ve successfully worked on multiple vineyards and worked with real vineyard professionals over the years. We walked into the current situation 6 months ago when we bought the property with 178 vines. I believe the vines were properly cared for originally (20+ years ago), but fell into an unmanaged state. The biggest issue was that the spurs were allowed to grow above the first and sometimes second guide wire.

The vines were not suckered, sprayed or irrigated when we bought the property. 85% of the fruit had to be tossed, mostly due to mildew.

I did an unsympathetic pruning, balancing this years fruit, proper vine structure and aesthetics. I marked these three vines which represents the overall vineyard and I will follow them on this post all the way through to harvest.

Vine 1, the GOOD
Able to prune spurs below guide wire, 2 buds per spur left from last year’s wood mostly available at a reasonable height. Spurs may not be pointing in the right direction, but it’s what I had to work with.
3F97A85F-5EE9-48A8-9B29-D349339DEBCD.jpeg

Vine 2, the BAD
Spurs above first catch wire and in some cases above the top catch wire. I lopped the whole thing off and started over. Two shoots used from last years wood to start a new cordon.
F83CF737-664A-4F53-B2CA-79E8114289E0.jpeg

Vine 3, the UGLY
Spurs above first catch wire and in some cases above the top catch wire. No shoots from last year to start a new cordon. Left a shoot from last years wood where available, but not possible on many spurs.
114650DD-5195-45D8-AD46-67B400902AB5.jpeg
 

NorCal

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We've had bud break, so I thought I would provide an update.

Vine 1, the GOOD
Looking back, I'm not sure I would have labeled this one as good as you can see I did major pruning to reduce the height of the spurs. I did get pretty consistent two shoots per spur. I suckered around the spur locations but there wasn't much.
AB5F9C1F-5C94-4DDF-9555-E904F27D27D9.jpeg

Vine 2, the BAD
This is yet to be seen. There are shoots coming out at the locations expected and who knows, this may turn out to be the way to restart this vineyard in the future, provided there are new shoots available in the right location.
667401AE-C626-4CEA-A8CF-EF50104FAB80.jpeg


Vine 3, the UGLY
This is where I think I didn't do the vine any favors. I am now thinking that instead of pruning the spur down below the first guide wire, perhaps I should have taken it all the way down to the cordon and selected new spur locations as they came up.
BE1F49E4-CA2C-47D5-B05A-8BEAAB040644.jpeg

I'd rather have a new spur location on the cordon than a goofy one at the max height I would want the spur. What I wasn't sure of is if and how many new spur locations would appear if I took all the spur locations down to the cordon.

E0F60391-871B-4361-A88A-F59A3A1ED049.jpeg
 

balatonwine

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We've had bud break, so I thought I would provide an update.

Vine 3, the UGLY
This is where I think I didn't do the vine any favors. I am now thinking that instead of pruning the spur down below the first guide wire, perhaps I should have taken it all the way down to the cordon and selected new spur locations as they came up.

be1f49e4-ca2c-47d5-b05a-8beaab040644-jpeg.86081


I'd rather have a new spur location on the cordon than a goofy one at the max height I would want the spur. What I wasn't sure of is if and how many new spur locations would appear if I took all the spur locations down to the cordon.

e0f60391-871b-4361-a88a-f59a3a1ed049-jpeg.86082

I agree that you you left those too high. I would never allow spurs to get that tall. But I do know in CA vineyards they often do. I personally think this is not a good idea. It is so easy to keep the spurs close to the cordon, and IMHO, one should.

Grape vines are vines. I have headed them, to trunk only, with no visible buds, yet they will still sprout shoots. With vines, the error is often in being too cautious than in being too radical.

If one does a radical cut, suggest to not let those bear and fruit that year, so not to stress the vines, but even if you do not do this, the vine often is okay. Grape vines are amazingly resilient to pruning. The greatest issue is the large cut does increase the possibility of trunk disease. But doing the more drastic pruning in an appropriate time, and applying appropriate treatments to the cut, can reduce that.

Hope this helps.
 
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I try not to sacrifice a fruiting spur until I get a bud started near the cordon. So, I can have three canes growing on a spur sometimes. If the renewal bud does not get up to size I will trim it back to one bud and usually the next year it grows strong enough to replace the spur.
 

NorCal

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Update on the three.
vine 1 good. Suckered, strong growth.

06FDB5C9-416C-4886-A90C-DE896090107B.jpeg

Vine 2 Bad. The growth is lagging behind the vines that have established cordons, but it may be a new start for this type vine.
E21A2DFD-E6D4-4661-A4AD-D013E5DFEB08.jpeg

The Ugly. Still ugly with little hope for anything productive this season. It may have been better to lop it off at the cordon wire and establish new cordons for next year.
55C7EF05-89B9-41BC-9C45-37653EF9FDFA.jpeg
 
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There is a difference in vigor and bud break across varieties. Are these three vines pictured the same variety?
Also, neglected vines get out of balance, and accepting a smaller crop in the beginning may be a better choice than radical vine surgery.
And also, some areas of a vineyard have different soil composition and layers, and those vines can struggle, but it is usually a visible block of vines affected. Those areas can be pruned to bear smaller crops.
 
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NorCal

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There is a difference in vigor and bud break across varieties. Are these three vines pictured the same variety?
Also, neglected vines get out of balance, and accepting a smaller crop in the beginning may be a better choice than radical vine surgery.
And also, some areas of a vineyard have different soil composition and layers, and those vines can struggle, but it is usually a visible block of vines affected. Those areas can be pruned to bear smaller crops.
Good point. The good & bad are Zin and the ugly is Cab Sauv. The Cab Sauv has significant less vigor across the vineyard than the Zin and Syrah.
 

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Another update, for those following along.

2B80AD5C-0C56-4995-B030-7E88AF94C46D.jpeg
The good, strong growth, good fruit set.

D5472D70-89EF-4D9A-B4B3-000B7CFE257E.jpeg
The bad has good fruit set as well, but lagging behind.

D4FC2EBB-CBF3-4509-A0F3-0F73AD1B413A.jpeg
The ugly is going to be a waste of a year. Maybe a cluster or two. I would have been better off to lop all the spurs down to the cordon and just planned on picking new spurs for next year. In this case, I’m not sure the cordons are all that healthy.
 
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On "The Ugly", I am guessing that you cut off last year's canes by trimming back the spur. It is not easy to determine what was trimmed in the photos. New buds pushing off a spur or cordon are often not fruitful unless you get lucky. Pruning vines is a game of guessing and sometimes you lose. I talked to a vintner who was growing Cab Sauv, Syrah and a few other varietals around Grass Valley and he cane pruned everything. I was shocked, but it worked for him and maybe your plan to cut off the arms is right.
 

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I'm happy the results of the good and bad vines, I think short term and long term they were good solutions. Clearly I made an error on the ugly type vines, but I need to plan for next year. The ugly vines were those vines that had really extended spurs, up to 2 feet and above the top wire in some cases. They also did not have a confienently located shoot from last year that I could start new cordons like the "bad" scenario. Looking back, how would you have pruned this type vine, knowing there wouldn't be any fruit that next year, but you were looking to get the vine back into shape in the long term?

White - is what I did
Red - cut the spurs flush with the cordon, to establish new spurs
yellow - cut cordons off, look to to establish new cordons
pink - cut it all off and look to establish new cordons

cut.jpg
 

NorCal

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On "The Ugly", I am guessing that you cut off last year's canes by trimming back the spur. It is not easy to determine what was trimmed in the photos. New buds pushing off a spur or cordon are often not fruitful unless you get lucky. Pruning vines is a game of guessing and sometimes you lose. I talked to a vintner who was growing Cab Sauv, Syrah and a few other varietals around Grass Valley and he cane pruned everything. I was shocked, but it worked for him and maybe your plan to cut off the arms is right.
I could see the benefit of cane pruning. I would only do that one year, to get new cordons in place and then going forward do spur pruning.
 

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Several vineyards in Virginia cane prune. I wanted to spur prune my young vines for frost protection (double pruning) but I was having trouble establishing the cordon so most of my vines are cane pruned.

Out of curiosity, why the preference for spur pruning? Ease of pruning? Less tying down?
 

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Several vineyards in Virginia cane prune. I wanted to spur prune my young vines for frost protection (double pruning) but I was having trouble establishing the cordon so most of my vines are cane pruned.

Out of curiosity, why the preference for spur pruning? Ease of pruning? Less tying down?
The rmain reason is that the rest of the vineyard is spur pruned and would want to maintain vine to vine consistency.
 
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Looking back, how would you have pruned this type vine, knowing there wouldn't be any fruit that next year, but you were looking to get the vine back into shape in the long term?

I personally would do a few things:

Preserve two well positioned canes in the head of the vine that could be used to replace the cordons.
Continue to shoot thin the spurs until there are 2-3 canes that reach pencil thickness on each spur.
Around harvest before the rains start either prune the spurs down to the lowest cane that reached 2 feet long, or decide the cordons are bad and cut them off and lay down the renewal canes you preserved.

Cutting off the cordons now will push the new canes and cause them to grow long internodes and that makes bad cordons. If that happens, the lateral shoots off a cane are good for new arms because of their short internodes.
 

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I thought the variety determined the pruning and trellising methods. If the fruit is born closer to the ends of the cane, it was cane pruned. If the fruit is born closer to the cordon (or spurs), it was spur pruned.
 

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