Four Arm Kniffin System for Growing Grapes
David Handley: I'm David Handley, vegetableand small fruit specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Today we'regoing to be talking about a simple system for pruning hardy grapes here in Maine. The pruning system I like to use is very simple.It keeps the plant open, so it gets light in the summer time, but it also protects theplant a little bit in the winter. This system works best with concord type or labrusca typegrapes, which are the grapes that tend to grow best in Maine. There's really a couple of systems that willwork well for labrusca type grapes. The first
one I want to talk about is the four arm kniffin,and that's what we're going to prune first. The four arm kniffin consists of a perennialtrunk, which goes from the ground right up to a top wire, which is set at about fivefeet. Coming off of this trunk, we will have four arms, or canes, oneyear old growth.Two on the top wire, running each side of the top wire, and two on a lower wire. Thislower wire should be set at about two and a half feet off the ground. Every year, we're going to come in and pruneit so we continue to have a perennial trunk, but only four one yearold trunks to producethe fruit.
Here is our permanent trunk. You can see here,this is a cane from last year. Two yearold cane, this was our fruiting cane last summer,and you can see the difference. Here's this year's cane, that nice chocolate brown colorand smooth bark, and here we go with the older cane, the two yearold cane. The bark is startingto peel, and has more of a gray look to it, so we know that this particular shoot isn'tgoing to fruit again. It's the one yearold shoots that come off it that will fruit. This is going to get pruned out, so that wecan keep our fruiting wood closer to the trunk. We'll just take that back to a good fruitingshoot, and we'll start to cut it out. This
is where it gets fun. We need to wrestle thisout of the trellis, and of course, all these little tendrils have tied it up and aroundmost of the growth that's there. It takes a little bit of cutting, but be careful notto break the fruiting canes that you want to leave behind. Pull it off, and that will open the plantingup so we can see what we have left for good fruiting wood for this year. We've taken offthe four fruiting canes that we left last year, and you can see pretty much all that'sleft, at this point, is the green shoots from last year, that will provide us with goodfruit for this year.
Now we need to choose which four we want toput up. We're going to have four canes. One, two, three, four. Two for the lower wire,two for the upper wire, each heading off in different directions. What I want to look for in this case is canethat's got this nice chocolate brown color, and is about 38 of an inch in diameter. Aboutthe width of your little finger. If it's thinner than that, if it's very weak, it won't producegood fruit. Thin stuff like this, less than 38 of an inch in diameter, we'll just cutthat right out. Here we've got one that's going to go in thisdirection, that looks very nice. I'm going
to count, remember we want about 10 buds onit, so we'll count our buds. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. ThenI just cut out beyond that, because the weaker stuff at the very end isn't going to producevery good fruit. I have my four arms, but you can see I stillhave some leftover canes. What I'm going to use these for are what we call quot;renewal spurs.quot;I'm going to cut these back so that they just have one or two buds on them. What I'm goingto use these buds for, the green shoots that will emerge from these buds and grow out,will be the canes that I'll be putting on the wire next year for fruiting. We call thesequot;renewal spurs.quot;
Best Perennials Monarda Grape Gumball Bee Balm
Bee Balms or Monardas as they're knownbotanically make terrific garden perennials, they're very hardy, easy togrow, cope with a variety of soil types, give a long lasting display, they havearomatic foliage that things like deer normally don't browse on, and of coursesmells nicely when you brush against it, and also what's interesting is that theyhave tubular flowers that things like hummingbirds love to come and visit,butterflies like to come and visit them too. And this very nice variety that'scalled Monarda 'Grape Gumball' grows only less than two foot tall and as you seemakes these rounded mounds that are
covered with this beautiful kind ofmagenta color, that just sparkles in a bed or a border. Makes a lovely plant forputting near the front of anywhere where you really want to accentuate the color,and the nice thing about these too, is that when their first flush begins to goover in summer time, if you trim it back, they'll quickly regrow again and then come with another burst of flower that will extend the color intothe early part of the autumn. So very hardy, easy to grow, able to cope with allsorts of cold conditions, this is a very nice form of the Bee Balm that wasdeveloped at Walters Gardens, it's part
of their quot;Sugar Buzzquot; series and this isMonarda 'Grape Gumball'.
Toward a Donothing Gardening pt 2 Edible Perennials Lazy Gardening
What could be better than harvesting crops without having to dig the soil and sow seeds every yearé Growing edible perennials is as close to do nothing gardening as you can get. Once established, they come back year after year and produce abundant harvests with very little effort. Just think of all the chores required to grow annuals. Every year we have to save, buy, or otherwise acquire and store seeds. For cold sensitive crops like tomatoes and peppers, we have to start them in the grow room, nurture them for several weeks there, water them, fight off fungus gnats, and adjust the lights as they grow.
Then before being transplanted into the garden, they have to be hardened off gradually outside over the course of several days. Finally, we have to transplant them into the garden and hope that an unexpected cold snap doesn't wipe them out. Though many annuals are well worth the effort and we'll continue to grow them, we can get closer to our ideal of a donothing garden by growing more perennials and fewer annuals. We currently have over 30 different edible perennials in our small garden, everything from strawberries and blackberries,
to good king henry and sorrel, to oregano and sage. Once established, most perennials require less work than annuals. Their deeper roots are better able to access nutrients and moisture, so they require less fertilizer and water. In most cases, a yearly application of compost and mulch provides all the nutrients they need. And because the soil is mulched and undisturbed, fewer weeds emerge and mycorrhizal fungi thrive, reducing weeding and fertilization requirements.
Another advantage is that many edible perennials have long growing seasons. French sorrel is one of the first plants to emerge in spring, and we harvest red veined sorrel and Egyptian walking onions most of the year even during much of the winter under protection. Similarly, we can harvest sunchokes in the fall, winter, and spring, except when the ground is frozen. Last year we added 6 new perennials that are hardy to zone 5: French sorrel, Good King Henry, sunchokes, asparagus, paw paw trees, and an Asian pear tree.
This year we're adding 3 more plus 1 that is hardy to zone 6, but may survive the winter under protection. Let's start with 2 perennials that are also cold hardy. Minutina is an herb that can produce all winter long under protection here in zone 5. Its leaves are eaten as greens in salads. Sylvetta Arugula is a perennial arugula in zones 5 to 9. We plan to grow minutina and sylvetta Arugula in the new hoop house I'm building this year. Lovage is an herb that that is perennial in zones 4 to 9
and produces stalks similar to celery and leaves that can be used like parsley. Finally, we purchased seeds for an Artichoke that is hardy to zone 6, but we hope to grow it here in zone 5 under the protection of cold frame and mulch. As we continue to plant more and more edible perennials, we hope to get closer and closer to our ideal of a donothing garden. If you'd like to learn more about growing perennial vegetables, I've provided a link the the Global Inventory of Perennial Vegetables in the description. This document has information on perennials that can be grown in a wide variety of climates. I've also included a list of all the perennials we're growing