Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Setting up a vineyard

Well, that sounds a bit ambitious, but it's actually not far from the truth.

A client of mine (when I've got my other hat on as a professional gardener) has a huge garden that's a bit neglected in places. One of the areas we haven't been able to get around to sorting out has been a very overgrown and wild planting of grapevines, with about 8 rows of vines around 20-30ft long.

I'm in the process of doing a deal with her under which I'd take over the maintenance of the grapevines in exchange for the grapes! It's quite a lot of work to begin with, but once I've got them in production it should be reasonably straightforward.

This time of year is busy for grape-growers: pruning has to be finished by the end of January or the sap starts rising and the vines will bleed half to death from the pruning cuts. I've been pruning several ornamental vines in various gardens lately: it's one of my favourite jobs, as you simply trace the main vine and snip off all the side shoots to about 3" or two buds away. There aren't any thorns to deal with and training is easy!

Pruning for grape production on wires - as for my vineyard above - is a bit different. There are a few different systems, but I'm going to try the Guyot system. Here's (roughly) how it works on established vines:
In winter:
1) You take two side shoots and pull them down to a horizontal wire. These will be the fruiting arms.
2) Then cut the middle, vertical shoot to three strong buds.
In summer:
1) The fruiting arms will have produced a lot of vertical shoots: stop them three leaves above the top wire and remove any sideshoots.
2) The central branch will be producing shoots too. Remove all except the strongest three and tie them in vertically. These will form the framework for next year. Pinch back any sideshoots to one leaf and make sure you take out any blossom (you don't want these ones fruiting... yet!)

The next winter you take off the two fruited arms, then train the three strong shoots you saved as for the previous winter - two horizontally and the third (central) cut back to three strong buds. And start again.

It all sounds very complicated but the logic is simple. So hopefully it'll make sense when I come to do it for real....!

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