Growing Concord Grapes In Tennessee

Umbrella Kniffin System for Growing Grapes

David Handley: I'm David Handley, with theUniversity of Maine Cooperative Extension, and we're here to talk about pruning grapes.Very simple system for farnorthern production. Here in Maine, we need to protect the vinesas best we can through the winter, but at the same time try to get enough light andexposure to the canes that we're going to get good fruit set, and good fruit quality. One of the systems you can use for labruscatype or concord type grapes, which are the ones that do best here in Maine, which isthe umbrella kniffin. As opposed to the four arm kniffin, the umbrella kniffin puts allof its canes up at the top, or the first year

growth that's going to fruit. What we're talking about with cane growthhere is one yearold growth that has a chocolate brown color, and nice smooth bark with budson it. We're going to be saving four canes, plus the permanent trunk, to give us all ofour fruiting structure. Everything else is going to be coming off of here, and that includesanything that fruited last year. You can tell the two yearold canes, or thecanes that fruited last year, because they'll be thicker, and they'll have gray, peelingbark. All of these are going to come off, and we're going to save the one yearold canewith the chocolate brown color, and the smooth

bark. The first step in pruning is to look at ourpermanent trunk and remove all of the two yearold growth, the growth that fruited lastyear, saving a few canes that we'll be using for fruiting this year. Our first step isto cut some of these off, looking at that older bark there. We just cut that out, getit right out of there. This will open up the planting, and that twoyearold wood is not going to fruit. Unless we take it out, we'll find that our fruitingwood gets further and further away from the trunk. Part of the reason we're pruning isto keep that fruiting wood concentrated right

near the trunk. With the umbrella kniffin, which is what we'repruning to here, we're only going to maintain four of those fruiting canes. We want themall concentrated near the top of the trunk, or the top wire on our twowire trellis. We'regoing to take each of the canes that remain behind. As you can see here, here's my nicefruiting cane, smooth bark. All these are buds that are going to breakand give us long, green shoots that will have bunches of grapes on them. We're going todrape them over the top wire, and then we're going to attach them to the bottom wire, togive you that kind of quot;umbrellaquot; look, thus

the name of the system called the quot;umbrellakniffin.quot; Then we're going to cut off the ends of thecanes, so that there's only about 10 buds on each one. We just count those from thetrunk. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. If I need to leave one ortwo on there to make it reach the bottom wire, that's fine. I'll just go to where I can attachthis to the bottom wire, like that. I need two for the other side, to completeour umbrella. You can see this leaves me with several other fruiting canes, and I need tosave some of those as well, but they don't need to be as long. What I'm calling theseare quot;renewal spurs,quot; because we need the buds

from these shoots to come out and give uscane that we'll be able to put up on the wire next year. For every fruiting cane that I'm leaving behind,I also need to cut some renewal cane, or renewal spurs, to provide us with fruiting wood fornext year. I just cut these back to one or two buds, and if they're not where I wantthem I can cut them off completely. But for every fruiting cane, I need to leave at leastone renewal spur. I tend to leave a couple of extra renewalspurs here in Maine, because I'm very sensitive to the fact that I'm likely to get winterinjury almost every year.

Growing Grapes

We have plenty of wild concord grapes on ourproperty. However, the insurance company doesn't approve of our harvesting methods so it'sprobably best to plant some cultivated grapes. When I cleared the land for the greenhouse,it left plenty of area to plant various fruit producing plants which don't need the greenhouseto thrive. Plus why waste the space just growing grassé Taking a look at my 3rd grade drawing skills,I'm going to set three 4x4x10' treated posts 34 feet into the ground and space them 24'apart. This will allow for 8 plants in the space. Then I'll string 12 gauge galvanizedwire starting with the first wire 4246quot; from

the ground, then space the other two 12quot; apart.The plants can be spaced 6' apart and over time the vines can be trained along the 3wires. I had planned to set the posts first in theevent that I hit any large rocks while digging, however I blew a seal on the backhoe and hadto find some parts for it. So I took my chances and put the plants in first. The row shouldgo in a straight line and a 100' tape measure works well for marking out the locations ofeach post and plant. Jamming a piece of survey's tape at each mark does the trick. We're goingoldschool and using a pickaxe and shovel and digging a hole about 1 foot deep. Luckilythere weren't any large rocks in the way just

a few roots and small stones that the pickaxewas able to pluck out. Later, looking at the post holes, you'll see why I didn't dig themby hand. Planting the vines is fairly easy. I got theseseedless concord grapes from Gurney's for half price. I just remove the fiber that'sused for keeping the roots damp, spread out the roots a bit, and set it in the hole sothat all the roots that emerge from the vine will be just below the finished level of thesoil. All the dirt that came out of the hole was hardpan so I filled it with nice organicsoil, then compacted it down, and gave it a really good watering. It also importantto cover the area with mulch to help maintain

the moisture in the soil until the roots canget established. These will get watered every day for a couple of weeks. The actual work of planting the vines is quick.It's the preparation of digging out the rocks that takes all the time. A 30 cent Oring and a day to dismantle andreassemble the valve assembly and the backhoe is running again. I can now install the postsfor the wire arbor. It may not be the fastest backhoe, but it beats digging through therock with a pick and shovel. The holes are dug to about 4 feet which will provide a deepenough anchor to prevent the posts from leaning

from the future weight of the vines. Someof the rocks that I pulled out where bigger than the hole. If I had to dig these by hand,I probably would have only dug down a couple of feet, and then would have to anchor theposts with concrete and guywires. It seems like a really big hole for a post,but without an auger with rock drilling bit, it's probably the easiest way to set a post.A little cleanup at the bottom of the hole and it's ready. I'm using 4x4 treated lumberrated for direct burial. I'm not a fan of using treated lumber, but in order for itto last a long time, it's a necessary evil. I like to add two temporary cleats to thepost to help support it while I'm set it plumb

and backfill the hole. I also like to dropa few rocks around the base to hold it in place when I start to fill it in. I'll fillthe hole several inches at a time and compact it between each layer, then clean up the areawith some more woodchip mulch. The first wire starts roughly 4246 inchesfrom the ground and the second and 3 wires are spaced 12 inches apart. It will be theperfect snacking height for the deer. At each marking I'll drill a 38quot; hole through thepost and then put in a 516quot; eyebolt. The back side has a large fender washer and nut.Having a large washer will help to keep the nut from pulling into the post under the weightof the vines. It's fairly important to make

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