Every year I have to do a plant replacement program. Some don’t grow big enough, some the gophers eat (the roots), some get hit by a weed whacker….you get the idea. I went through the vineyard and re-planted around 50 vines and determined that another 200 or so the trunks were not big enough to use, so I cut them back to the ground. It will help in the long run, but was sad when I had to cut them off.
In the picture above, all of the vines with “grow tubes” are either replants or I have cut them off. This is a particularly bad section.
I figure I started with 3130 vines and I replanted or started over approximately 300 vines so I have 2800 vines for my first harvest. If I get 0.5 lbs per plant, I’ll get 1400 lbs……enough for 600 bottles.
So, you might we wondering why I titled this “Can you count to four”. Well, as I’m learning, pruning and growing grapes is all about keeping the fruit and the leaves/vine growth in balance. Since my little vines are now in their 3rd leaf (or will be as soon as I get bud break) I don’t want to get to much fruit this year, or the vine won’t have enough leaves to produce photosynthesis and ripen the grapes. Normally with mature Pinot noir vines you would get two clusters of berries every 6 inches if you are trying to get high quality wine…..or about 3 pounds per plant. Since this is our first harvest, the grape clusters will be smaller and we will limit the number of clusters to only get 0.5 to 1 pound per vine. The way you do that is with pruning…….and the way to do that is to control the number of buds. Buds are the fuzzy growth you get on every plant in the spring…..grape vines are no different. For each bud you might get 1 to 2 grape clusters…..so, to make my long story short, I’m pruning to 4 buds this year, next year to about 6 and eventually between 8 and 12.
The picture above is a pruned vine…..I put below the before and after. It is a little sad to cut off so much of the growth from last year, but it will let the vine only put its energy into the shoots with grape clusters. So, the process is:
1. Cut the trunk about 4-6 inches below the fruiting wire
2. Trim off the shoots from last year to just outside the bud and do this for 4 buds
3. Cut off all the remaining shoots and buds to the bottom of the vine
4. After you have finished pruning for the day, you need to paint a 3% Serenade solution to prevent eutypa (a fungus that will destroy your vines).
5. Do this 3150 times!!!
The first day I did this I was learning and probably spent 25 seconds per plant…..and when I finished today I got to around 10–15 seconds per plant.
January 22 – 5 hours pruning
January 23 – 3 hours pruning
January 30 – 5.5 hours pruning
January 31 – 3 hours pruning
February 1 – 3 hours pruning
Total Pruning – 19.5 hours
Next up is replanting vines that died last year and then tying up the vines to the rebar. Hopefully most of this will get done in February.