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;
Growing Grapes in Texas Jim Kamas Central Texas Gardener
I love Tait Moring's sense ofgardening style. Thanks so much for opening your gates for us. Right now we're going to talk aboutgrowing grapes. One of the hottest topics here in Texas because of all the wineries. We have Jim Kamas with us. It's great to have you back on theprogram. Welcome. Thanks, Tom, I appreciate it. Welcome back to Central Texas Gardener. You've just published a great new bookGrowing Grapes in Texas.
Congratulations on that! Thanks a lot. It took a couple years to get done, but I'm I'm pretty happy with it. Well you know, like I said, it's a hottopic. A lot of people are very interested in growing grapes in their backyard. Maybe one ofthose famous table grapes, like Concord or something like that. Well Concord ispretty tough to grow here. Concord likes acid soils which we don'thave. And it's much more adapted a cooler climates. If you wanted to grow Fredonia or some of the other lebrusca types, they'll work, but
Concord is a pretty tough one to grow here. Ok, well your book is filled with tips aboutvarieties and things like that. Let's focus on that home grower. You know , I know for example I go out to hillcountry every now and again to go to Fredericksburg, places around there. And I see wineries springing up like mushrooms now. And it kinda makes me wanna grow grapeshere in town. What does a home gardner need to know to get startedé Well if you're a homeowner and you want to grow enough vines to produce a little bit of wine
my advice is plant what you like. If you're planting a commercial vineyards we're going to have a very different discussion. But if you like Merlot, plant Merlot. If you like Syrah, plant Syrah. For smallscale, you have no big economicinvestment, so plant what you like and go with that. Yeah okay, that makes sense. In terms of the space needs, the sun,
all those kinds of things, grapes arerather particular and disease prone. Yes. So let's give people an idea of whatthe basics are that they would need to have any kind of success. Sure. Commercially our rows are spaced nine to ten feet apart, but in the backyard if you are maintaining the row centers with alawnmower or something, you can place the rows as close as six feet apart.And you can also go as tight as five to six feet between vines. You can put a lot of vines in arelatively small space.
So small space is OK. When we talk about the rows, we are talking about providing structures on which the the vines can grow and supportthemselves. Yes, a lot of times in California you'll see these free standing vines that are called head pruned vines. They don't do very well here because we need to keep our vines up off the ground because it rains here duringthe summer and they are very disease prone as you mentioned.
Knowing when to harvest your grapes
gt;gt;TOM VAN DER LINDEN: It's a beautiful Septemberday in Minnesota. We're at the Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesotaand it's time to harvest the grapes. But how do you know when it's time to pické I'll showyou how to tell when the grapes are ripe and I'll show you some measurements to be sure,because it's important. After all, better grapes mean better wine. The most important day of the year is theday you pick. It sets in motion the annual harvest and it also determines the kind ofwine you'll make. As a grape grower and a wine maker you should keep a notebook. You'llbe glad to have records in the months and
years to come. Let's start with sight, touch, smell, andtaste. You want your grapes to be rich in color, not green. A ripe grape will crusheasily, but not be shriveled. A ripe grape is plump, and thickly juicy. It's a balancebetween sweet and tart. Each variety develops special flavors that we call varietal flavor.A fully ripe grape develops its varietal flavor more fully. Does the skin have varietal flavoré Is itherbaceous, or is it vegetal, like a green pepperé Is the aftertaste pleasant or is itbitteré Chemical or vinegar tastes or smells are flaws so take good notes if you have thatproblem. One more time, taste the grape and
imagine what the wine will be. Then we'llmove on to some lab work. It's good to use your senses but it's alsoimportant to measure. You need to measure sugar content, pH, and acidity level. Grapesare mostly water and sugar which will ferment to make wine. Brix is a term that the brewingindustry uses to measure the sugar content of grapes. Brix level helps estimate the alcohollevel of your wine. Like temperature, Brix is measured in degrees. Brix is measured witha refractometer, which you can buy at a winemaking supply store or online. Drop some juice onthe test plate, close the cover firmly and look through the viewfinder. You'll see aline where your juice registers on an internal
scale. In this case, the juice registers 24degrees Brix. A somewhat less convenient, but cheaper methodis to buy a simple glass hydrometer which has a builtin scale. Simply pour your juiceinto the cylinder, float your hydrometer and read the Brix level right off the builtinscale. The more sugar in your wine, the higher your hydrometer will float. As your grapesmature, they store more sugar so the Brix level rises. Different wine styles requiredifferent Brix levels. In general, for white wine, 22 Brix is good. We'll keep an eye onour grapes, testing them periodically, and when we reach our Brix goal, then it's timeto pick.
We now know about sugar and how to measureit. Next let's quickly shift to pH and the pH meter. You may remember pH from high schoolscience class. It's a measure of free hydrogen ions. As our grapes ripen and the sugar rises,the pH will rise too. You can buy an inexpensive, portable pH meter. Be sure you buy pH referencesolutions so you can calibrate your meter. Grape juice is full of natural acids, whichlend important qualities to wine. Every time we measure Brix we should also measure acidlevels. In a way they're opposites; as the Brix goes up, the acid levels go down. Youcan buy a simple acid test kit. It takes a little practice and a little care and you'llwant to make good records, but don't worry,
you can do it! So enough with measuring and tasting, let'sgo pick! Are you ready to pické Let's start by pickinga good sample. Yes, you can pick one grape, put it in your refractometer and take a sugarsample, but it won't be very representative of all your grapes. Instead, pick individualgrapes from many clusters. Sample from both sides of the vine, high and low, in sunnyareas and shaded areas, and pick from different parts of each cluster. An ideal sample mightbe 50 grapes. But if you only have a few vines, it'll be okay to take a smaller sample. Makea note about how they felt, how they smelled,