Growing Grape Vines In Maine

Caring for Young Grape Vines

My name is David Handley, I'm with the Universityof Maine Cooperative Extension, and we're here to talk about how to prune and traina young grapevine. This is a vine that was planted last spring. We got it from a dormantplant, or rooted cutting, and you can see the original part of the planting right here.This is what we got from the nursery, with a good root system under it. We planted it,and we had a bud break and some vine growth. This is last year's growth right here. Thiswas a green shoot. Typically, you may get more than one shoot developing. You may haveseveral buds on here. We want to prune this back to one strong vine, your strongest one.We're going to arrange for that to be tied

up to a trellis, because this particular vineis what's going to become our permanent trunk, or the permanent part of the plant that'sgoing to be with us for the life of the planting. We want to make sure it's the strongest ofthe vines that we can choose from. Any other one that developed that's very weak, we canjust cut that out, select our best one. The time of year to make these cuts are whenthe canes are dormant, and this is going to be really any time after the new year, untilthey bud out in late March, early April. We hope in the first year that we get enoughgood growth that we can tie it to the lower trellis wire.Typically here in Maine, we're going to be

pruning to either a four arm kniffin trainingsystem, or an umbrella kniffin training system. Those trellises consist of two wires, oneset at about two and a half feet, and a second wire set at about five feet.We hope in the first year that we're going to get enough good growth to reach at leastthe bottom wire, but in order to make sure it's growing straight, you can see we supportedthis with a small bamboo pole. Any kind of planting stake will work, and we just tiethat vine up as it grows, rather than let it grow along the ground where it can getrot problems, and not develop a nice straight growth like we want. We tie it up, just likeyou'd tie up a beef steak tomato, get the

growth that you want.As I said, we've got pretty good buds here, reaching up to the first wire. You can seethat I actually make it to the top wire, but you can see the growth up here is very scrawnyand spindly, and isn't really going to lead to a good, strong trunk. I'd rather actuallystart new growth for reaching to this top wire for next year.What that means is that I'm actually going to cut this off here, rather low, to try toget this bud here to break and give me a much stronger shoot to develop my trunk to thetop wire next year. I can just take that there, and then, instead of using the bamboo polethis year, I can just tie it to the wire.

This bud will hopefully break, and give mea good, strong shoot, that I'm going to reach the second wire next year. Of course, thesebuds lower down will also break, and if this one happens to be weak, I may select one ofthese. But, if this bud does turn out to be a strong shoot, I'll be cutting these offnext winter and getting my single trunk back up to the top wire.Next year, when this does reach the top wire, eventually what we'll be doing is taking oneyear old cane, and either draping it over this top wire and connecting it to the bottomwire in an umbrella kniffin, or we'll be taking one cane at the top wire on each side, andone cane at the bottom wire on each side,

to create four arms of one year old growth,for a four\uc0\u8209 arm kniffin system. Both systems work pretty well for concretetype grapes here in a cold climate like Maine.

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;

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.

Leave a Reply