Growing Grapevines

By | December 9, 2016

Caring for Young Grape Vines

My name is David Handley, I’m with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and we’re here to talk about how to prune and train a young grapevine. This is a vine that was planted last spring. We got it from a dormant plant, or rooted cutting, and you can see the original part of the planting right here. This is what we got from the nursery, with a good root system under it. We planted it, and we had a bud break and some vine growth. This is last year’s growth right here. This was a green shoot. Typically, you may get more than one shoot developing. You may have several buds on here. We want to prune this back to one strong vine, your strongest one. We’re going to arrange for that to be tied.

Up to a trellis, because this particular vine is what’s going to become our permanent trunk, or the permanent part of the plant that’s going to be with us for the life of the planting. We want to make sure it’s the strongest of the vines that we can choose from. Any other one that developed that’s very weak, we can just cut that out, select our best one. The time of year to make these cuts are when the canes are dormant, and this is going to be really any time after the new year, until they bud out in late March, early April. We hope in the first year that we get enough good growth that we can tie it to the lower trellis wire. Typically here in Maine, we’re going to be.

Pruning to either a four arm kniffin training system, or an umbrella kniffin training system. Those trellises consist of two wires, one set at about two and a half feet, and a second wire set at about five feet. We hope in the first year that we’re going to get enough good growth to reach at least the bottom wire, but in order to make sure it’s growing straight, you can see we supported this with a small bamboo pole. Any kind of planting stake will work, and we just tie that vine up as it grows, rather than let it grow along the ground where it can get rot problems, and not develop a nice straight growth like we want. We tie it up, just like you’d tie up a beef steak tomato, get the.

Growth that you want. As I said, we’ve got pretty good buds here, reaching up to the first wire. You can see that I actually make it to the top wire, but you can see the growth up here is very scrawny and spindly, and isn’t really going to lead to a good, strong trunk. I’d rather actually start new growth for reaching to this top wire for next year. What that means is that I’m actually going to cut this off here, rather low, to try to get this bud here to break and give me a much stronger shoot to develop my trunk to the top wire next year. I can just take that there, and then, instead of using the bamboo pole this year, I can just tie it to the wire.

This bud will hopefully break, and give me a good, strong shoot, that I’m going to reach the second wire next year. Of course, these buds lower down will also break, and if this one happens to be weak, I may select one of these. But, if this bud does turn out to be a strong shoot, I’ll be cutting these off next winter and getting my single trunk back up to the top wire. Next year, when this does reach the top wire, eventually what we’ll be doing is taking one year old cane, and either draping it over this top wire and connecting it to the bottom wire in an umbrella kniffin, or we’ll be taking one cane at the top wire on each side, and one cane at the bottom wire on each side,.

To create four arms of one year old growth, for a four\uc0\u8209 arm kniffin system. Both systems work pretty well for concrete type grapes here in a cold climate like Maine.

Growing Grapes

We have plenty of wild concord grapes on our property. However, the insurance company doesn’t approve of our harvesting methods so it’s probably best to plant some cultivated grapes. When I cleared the land for the greenhouse, it left plenty of area to plant various fruit producing plants which don’t need the greenhouse to thrive. Plus why waste the space just growing grass? Taking a look at my 3rd grade drawing skills, I’m going to set three 4x4x10′ treated posts 34 feet into the ground and space them 24′ apart. This will allow for 8 plants in the space. Then I’ll string 12 gauge galvanized wire starting with the first wire 4246quot; from.

The ground, then space the other two 12quot; apart. The plants can be spaced 6′ apart and over time the vines can be trained along the 3 wires. I had planned to set the posts first in the event that I hit any large rocks while digging, however I blew a seal on the backhoe and had to find some parts for it. So I took my chances and put the plants in first. The row should go in a straight line and a 100′ tape measure works well for marking out the locations of each post and plant. Jamming a piece of survey’s tape at each mark does the trick. We’re going oldschool and using a pickaxe and shovel and digging a hole about 1 foot deep. Luckily there weren’t any large rocks in the way just.

A few roots and small stones that the pickaxe was able to pluck out. Later, looking at the post holes, you’ll see why I didn’t dig them by hand. Planting the vines is fairly easy. I got these seedless concord grapes from Gurney’s for half price. I just remove the fiber that’s used for keeping the roots damp, spread out the roots a bit, and set it in the hole so that all the roots that emerge from the vine will be just below the finished level of the soil. All the dirt that came out of the hole was hardpan so I filled it with nice organic soil, then compacted it down, and gave it a really good watering. It also important to cover the area with mulch to help maintain.

The moisture in the soil until the roots can get established. These will get watered every day for a couple of weeks. The actual work of planting the vines is quick. It’s the preparation of digging out the rocks that takes all the time. A 30 cent Oring and a day to dismantle and reassemble the valve assembly and the backhoe is running again. I can now install the posts for the wire arbor. It may not be the fastest backhoe, but it beats digging through the rock with a pick and shovel. The holes are dug to about 4 feet which will provide a deep enough anchor to prevent the posts from leaning.

From the future weight of the vines. Some of the rocks that I pulled out where bigger than the hole. If I had to dig these by hand, I probably would have only dug down a couple of feet, and then would have to anchor the posts with concrete and guywires. It seems like a really big hole for a post, but without an auger with rock drilling bit, it’s probably the easiest way to set a post. A little cleanup at the bottom of the hole and it’s ready. I’m using 4×4 treated lumber rated for direct burial. I’m not a fan of using treated lumber, but in order for it to last a long time, it’s a necessary evil. I like to add two temporary cleats to the post to help support it while I’m set it plumb.

And backfill the hole. I also like to drop a few rocks around the base to hold it in place when I start to fill it in. I’ll fill the hole several inches at a time and compact it between each layer, then clean up the area with some more woodchip mulch. The first wire starts roughly 4246 inches from the ground and the second and 3 wires are spaced 12 inches apart. It will be the perfect snacking height for the deer. At each marking I’ll drill a 38quot; hole through the post and then put in a 516quot; eyebolt. The back side has a large fender washer and nut. Having a large washer will help to keep the nut from pulling into the post under the weight of the vines. It’s fairly important to make.

Sure the eye bolt is an inch or more too long so you can tighten the nut if there’s a little slack in the wire. I’m using 12 gauge galvanized wire and I like to roll it out first and cut it to its rough length. Then I insert it through the bolt and bend it back on to itself, anchoring it with a wire clamp. The wire is stiff enough where you probably could just twist it over itself, but I just prefer the wire clamp. I drilled holes through the center post, but most people usually just staple the wire to the side of the post. I’m a bit obsessive compulsive and can’t handle having a bunch.

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