Finishing up Pruning at Dyer Vineyards
If the vines look like they’re dead, not to worry. Any day now, we can expect to see these sleepy vines begin to wake up and greet the 2012 growing season.
We finished up pruning a few weeks ago. Our vineyard is small enough that we have the luxury of waiting until the last minute to prune, which has a couple of benefits:
- One, it delays the onset of the growing season, which reduces the number of days we’re at risk for frost damage (damage begins when it drops below 32 F.; we’re not out of danger until mid to late May).
- Two, if the sap has started running when we prune, any spores for utypa fungus, also very descriptively known as “dead arm,” ooze out with the sap when we make the cut.
There are as many ways to train a vine as there are people to do it. If you don’t train them at all, they spread out on the ground, which is just as damaging for the clusters as it is to un-staked tomatoes in the garden.
We have our vines trained up into what’s known as bi-lateral cordon . See the two horizontal, woody shoots that make the vine look like a “T”? Those are permanent. And, we use what’s known as vertical shoot positioning. In the background of the photo, you can see kind of wild looking vines with long, vertical shoots. That’s last year’s growth that we hadn’t pruned, yet, when this photo was taken. The shoots were tucked into trellis wires, as they got longer, to make them grow vertically, rather than sprawling all over the place. The vertical positioning maximizes light exposure to the leaf surface and the clusters, which aids in maturation and heightens fruity flavors. So, that’s what these vines looked like before we pruned them.
We “spur prune” the vines. Notice the small protrusions in the cordon on the pruned vines? Those are called spurs, which is all that’s left of those long shoots after we finished pruning. They’re kind of hard to see, but you might notice the two little bumps on the spur closest to the camera. Those are buds, or growing points. The pinkie-green growth I described emerges from the buds on each on each spur and then grows like crazy.
The theory is that for each bud, we get one new shoot. And, each shoot produces 1-3 clusters. Of course, the vines don’t know the rules, so we’ll spend time later this month thinning out excess shoots. Crowding exacerbates mildew problems. And, if the vine has too many clusters to ripen, it’s hard to get enough sugar and flavor can become diluted.
By May, we’ll have a nice, green wall of leaves on each vine, reaching at least the top trellis wire. In late May they’ll flower and set the crop, after which we’ll make cluster counts and do any necessary cluster thinning. The shoots may need to be topped, or hedged, by then, too, to keep the green growth in balance with the number of clusters.
It’s way too soon to make any predictions for the 2012 vintage. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and assume that it’s going to be terrific! Cheers!
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