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The Importance of Pruning Your Home Vineyard

After a holiday respite, when the thermostat plunges downward, comes every grape growers’ favorite task: winter pruning of the vines. This arduous process is integral to the health of the grapevine and its next vintage.

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 When:

  • In late winter to early spring (February-April). In this dormant period, the sap and water runs down from the cordons of the plant into the trunk and roots, allowing the plant to winterize. This cold hardiness will improve over time and the life of the plant. Once the plant has endured the freezing temperatures of the winter, it will be ready to prune.

Why:

  • Any grower who has attempted to work with grapes, knows that they are incredibly hardy and vigorous plants. Without aggressive winter pruning, removing approximately 90% of the previous years’ growth, the grapevines will continue to grow vigorously and become and entangled mess upon the trellis. All of the added weight can break the trellis and will generate too much foliage to allow the grapes to receive proper sunlight. The extra foliage can also allow diseases to carry over from the prior growing year, giving them an early head start as soon as temperatures rise.

How:

  • There are two main methods of grapevine pruning: cane pruning and spur pruning. In cane pruning, the grower will select the two or four most inner canes closest to the trunk and keep those as renewal canes and remove all of the other growth. On some hybrid or native plants, you could be removing some canes that run 15 feet long! You can’t kill a grapevine, so no need to worry about the large amount of plant material you are removing. It should be about 80-90% of the growth from the former year.

Spur pruning is another style of winter pruning in which the grower will remove the most of the cane growth from the previous year, leaving the main cordons and a 1-2 bud spur behind. The spurs contain 1-2 buds that will produce the following years fruiting canes. As the vine ages, it is important to monitor the cordons for disease and ensure that you are keeping healthy material. The grower can always change over from one method of pruning to another, depending on their grapevines’ individual needs.

An interesting experiment would be to prune two grapevines of the same variety using each different method, and see the results in that years’ harvest!

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Interested in making your own wine? Musto Wine Grape Company is here to help! We are New England’s largest supplier for home winemaking products and services. We can get you set up with all of your juice, grape and equipment needs and have you on track to making your own perfect pairing for next fall! Visit juicegrape.com or give us a call at (877) 812 – 1137 to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you!