So…I had pre-pruned the vineyard earlier to make it easier to see where to prune…and to delay my final pruning. Above you can see for cane pruning you leave 2 healthy canes from the previous year and cut off all the rest. Below you will see that the canes are shortened such that the canes when tied to the wires don’t touch. It is hard to estimate, so normally I tie them to the wires and then trim one of the canes if I left them to long.
For me this year looks like my “wire will be full” (all of the vines have 2 canes to tie to the wire. Hopefully we will have a good fruit set and a large quality harvest in 2016.
BTW…what is nice to see in 2016, six years after initial planting, is that the trunks are getting larger and we did a good job last year of keeping the correct canes during thinning in 2015 for use in 2015! Hope that makes sense to all reading. Basically, anything you do as far as pruning/thinning/spraying the previous year you get to see the results the next year.
This picture shows the rows now pruned and ready to be tied. I will remove the piles of canes in the next week and mow the grass so I can begin to catch gophers earlier this year before they get out of control!
In the last post I gave you an update about the drought here in California. The net is we still need a lot of rain in the next 2 months.
2013 our vines were in their 4th leaf (still young and the roots not fully developed) so I was trying to wean them from water to develop the roots better and help the pH of the grapes. Unfortunately, I went a little to far and the renewal spurs for cane pruning did not fully develop. So, this years crop will be a little smaller than expected…which is OK since we are short of water again and I don’t want to stress the vines so early in their life. What does that mean for those who don’t know the lingo…in the picture above, the “arms” for his year did not grow enough on some of the vines. What will I do in 2014? I’m going to make sure we get enough water until the fruit is “set” which should be enough for 2015. So much to learn…and I guess you don’t learn unless something happens to you.
Last year I tied up the trunks of the vines to the rebar and had a few plants that I could leave canes. Most of them were very short and they did not need tying to the wire. THIS YEAR is much different. Probably 70% of the vines will end up with canes (arms that are grown back each year) so instead of only 4 buds per vines I will probably average at least 12 buds on healthier plants to a maximum of 16 buds. So…what does that mean. I’m hoping for 3-4 times as much tonnage, so instead of 1300 pounds, I’ll have 2 to 2.5 tons…eventually 5 tons in two more years.
Just a reminder…last year in February I guessed 1400 lbs. and missed by 100 lbs., so I’m hoping this guess is a good one…of course the growing season in 2012 was the best in years!!!
The pictures below show a close-up of a good vine (on left) that is tied to the wire and a vine that did not grow enough (on right) that is still a stick and only tied to the rebar. The one of the left will produce 3 lbs. and on the right only about 0.5 lbs.
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.