Right now I'm just trying to remove dead stuff. I hope that before the
vines start growing in the spring I can prune at least some of them
properly. I'm faced with a mess of trunks and canes of all sizes and
ages, and I'm having trouble figuring out how to start.
I've got a couple of specific questions.
First, how can I identify first-year growth, so that I can follow my
book's instructions to leave a controlled number of first-year canes
on each vine?
Second, how should I deal a couple of locations where the vines died?
I must decide whether replant in the same places or not, and if so,
what to plant and how. Saying that the vines died of neglect is
probably true, but not useful. All of the vines were neglected, but
some died while others thrived. Maybe the dead vines' locations were
bad. (For example, one was next the corner of a shed where it probably
got much less direct sun than most of the others, especially in early
spring and late fall.) Maybe the vines that were planted (now
unidentifiable) were inappropriate for the location. Maybe the soil
was bad. Or maybe it was a combination of those things and others.
Beyond that, I'm looking for any sort of advice on how to proceed.
On Mon, 10 Jan 2011 22:26:11 -0800, Jonathan Sachs
Grapes are very resiliant... prune them all down leaving one trunk of
about two feet... then as they grow do not neglect them. Grapes need
two prunings per year. If you are unsure how find someone nearby who
does. There are different pruning systems depending on how trellised.
First, ignore advice from Brooklin1/Shelly as he suffers from chronic
cranial-rectal inversion, and his advice will get you in deep Doo.
If the vines have been neglected for a number of years, it may take a
couple of years to re-shape them for cane pruning, where you have 4
canes coming off the branches, 2 going left and 2 going right (I'm
guessing that you are cane pruning from what you said above.).
Last years canes will show buds, and won't have bark on them. Canes that
come off the top of a stump, branch, or cordon are preferable to ones
that are attached to the underside.
If the grapes are meant for winemaking, then leave about 22 buds for
this years fruit. Leave fewer for more vegetative growth, leave half
again as many , if they are to be used for fresh fruit.
Where are you? What is the soil like? What kind of grapes are these? Any
idea if the vines are on rootstock? What did the leaves on the dead
plants look like last year, or the last year that they had leaves?
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the
I'm in the Sacramento area. Winters are cool and rainy, with
occasional frost; Summers are hot and dry.
Generally deep, fairly heavy loam left by an ancient sea bed; but our
yard is heavily landscaped, and I don't know the history of the soil
that was used for fill. It looks like the native soil but I can't be
When we moved in two years ago I collected samples from each vine and
took them to one of our local Master Gardeners (part of California's
ag extension program). I got some identifications, some tentative
ones, and some of "Gee, that's interesting, but..." Almost every vine
seems to be different. I can't find my notes at the moment, but the
ones I'm working on now appear to be wine grapes.
No idea. I see no evidence of grafting scars, but I'm not sure what to
look for, and perhaps the vines are too old for them to be visible.
Many of them are over an inch thick at the base.
I think they were long dead when we bought the property two summers
ago. The vines are so tangled together that it's hard to tell which
ones are dead and which ones aren't. The one I mentioned, at a corner
of the shed: I suspected it was dead, but I wasn't sure until I
started cleaning up dead wood a few days ago.
There are a lot of vines, almost every one a different variety, as I
mentioned above. Most of them are planted along the side of an arbor
covering a path about 50 feet long, which goes gently downhill in a
generally southerly direction. Most of those are in full sun (at least
at the top) through much of the day, but are shaded in the late
afternoon. Last year I put them on a drip irrigation system with a
couple of emitters near the base of each vine. They're on their own
branch of the drip system, so that I can water them infrequently and
deeply. The year before that, and probably many years, they received
no water at all except for the winter rains.
One vine (the only one producing heavily to date) is a seeded table
grape, Concord I think, which grows up a wall facing generally
northeast, over the top, and down the other side. (It also grows into
the surrounding trees, over 20 feet above the ground, which poses an
interesting dilemma: the higher vegetation does not appear to be
bearing much fruit, but I wonder if it is providing energy to the rest
of the vine, and should be retained.)
One thing I've discovered, to my distress, is that much of the dead
wood is still flexible! That has made it very hard for me to be sure
what's dead and what's not.
By the way, I've wondered whether the thicker stuff I cut would make
That's odd, now that I think about it: so far I've encountered very
few tendrils. That may be a peculiarity of the variety(ies) I've
That's a good idea, and I'll do it within the next few days. Can you
give me a general idea what kind of pictures would be most useful?
Yes, that's along the lines I was thinking... if for no other reason,
because cleaning up a dozen vines would be overwhelming, even if I
knew what I was doing! Treating each half of each plant differently is
difficult, though, when I have trouble being sure where one plant ends
and another begins!
Perfect for grapes... should be many winerys about.
Even if the builder scraped off some top soil it wouldn't have been
much and wouldn't much matter... grape roots go deep, very, very deep.
Really doen't matter what kind at this point.
The ag extention would be your best source in the area for how to
grow/prune grapes, wtf didn't you ask???
An inch diameter indicates a very VERY young grape vine, couldn't have
been been more than the diameter of a pencil when planted 2-3 years
ago, probably planted shortly prior to your arrival. Grape vines grow
extremely fast, that's one of the reasons they need to be pruned twice
a year and the second pruning very severe.
Obviously they would look like grape leaves. duh
If you arrived in the summer there would have been leaves... seems to
me you never even looked at those grapes till very recently.
Odds are very little of the vines were actually dead and it's very
difficult to kill a grape plant from mere neglect... as I indicated
previously you should lop off all but about two feet of the trunk (now
is a good time). And as soon as they bud out in spring erect a
trellis/arbor of some type, very important that grapes are trained.
There's tons of information on the net about <how to grow grapes>.
I've grown grapes most of my life but since I retired I gave it up,
growing grapes is extremely labor intensive, never mind what to do
with them... one measely vine will produce minimally 100 pounds of
grapes, ripening all at once. And where you live it will be
impossible to sell them let alone give them away. I can't imagine why
any homeowner in that part of CA would want to grow grapes in their
Grape vines are pruned once a year, while the vines are dormant.
Vines MAY be trimmed, usually in July, to let more sun penetrate the
canopy to ward-off mold, but it isn't done in hot years.
Shelly, where do you come up with this crap. You are as bad as Fox News.
Posters would be better off, if you just STFU.
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the
I'd take Billy's advice over Brooklyn's.
Years ago I returned from a California trip in January where I had
visited a vineyard and observed how far back they pruned their grapes.
I did it to mine and really messed them up and gradually lost them to
the bad pruning and my shaded yard.
Any Junior College near you should have viticulture classed, or maybe
you could get lucky with U.C. Davis, but you need a viticulturist to
tell you if the vines are grafted, and a very good one to identify the
I've known people to stick grape canes in the ground, with hopes of
making their home more saleable. This is OK with native American grapes,
but with European grapes it is an invitation to phylloxera, an American
root aphid, which will eventually kill the vines.
To identify the vines you need to have leaves and fruit.
Arbors are used in northern Italy (perhaps elsewhere) and they make a
nice area for picnics or covered patios.
I'd suggest pruning each vine back to 22 buds. You'll have the choice of
a field blend wine, which was very popular to early Italians here in
Sonoma County, or table grapes. Concord wine is an acquired taste for
most people. When the buds have broken and are pushing vines, cut out
the dead wood.
Given plenty of nitrogen and water, vines will vegetate instead of
setting fruit, and they won't store starch in their roots until the
grapes have been ripened. This can profoundly stress the vine in the
spring when it needs that starch to push buds and grow canes.
My advice is to not fertilize except perhaps in the spring, and water
only if you see the leaves wilting quickly in the morning. Considering
that you're near Sacramento, I'd look to see how quickly the leaves
wilt, because Sacramento temps often go above 100F. You could also just
give them a hosing down by squirting the water up,and letting it fall
back on the vine like rain. This may cause some mold problems which you
may need to address, but it will keep the vines healthy. If you get
sunburn on the fruit, you have even a better chance of getting mold,
since the sunburn is a point of entry for the mold.
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the
I found my franscript of the voice mail message in which the master
gardener tried to identify my grapes. Here's a summary of what he
said. In a few cases I wasn't sure what he said, and I've put my best
guess in [brackets?].
1. Autumn Black or Autumn Royal (he wasn't sure which; he was trying
to identify the fruit by taste).
2. An American variety, Concord Niagra , [Campbell's?] Early, or a
similar juice/jelly grape.
3, Thompson Seedless.
4. A large green grape, unidentified.
5. Black Monukka.
6. Perhaps Flame Seedless, but he wasn't sure because they looked too
7. Probably an American/European hybrid, unidentified, with pulpy
These are table grapes, however a decent table wine could be made from
#3, #5, and #6. For people who drink wines from European grapes, #2 (and
other American grapes[#1?, #4?, & #7?]) would seem strange.
"When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the
can you describe things further? (how many,
what kind, how they are arranged, spacing,
what kind of support, setting, sunlight, water,
it can be a big project reconditioning...
i'm doing that for an established vine
this winter/spring. i only have the one
vine so i'm envious of anyone who has more. :)
it can vary by variety, but generally first
year growth will be the smallest and smoothest
canes from the tips (where the leaves have died)
back to where they join with another cane. they
might even still be green and flexible.
the older cane they have come from will often
be rougher/darker/woodier, might have some bark
peeling or be bigger around (half inch or more
in diameter). as a cane transforms from first
year to second year it might have strips of bark
coming off it. really old canes will look like
wood and have quite discernable bark/texture.
the other thing to look at is the tendrils
that hold the vines to each other or the
support structure. the newer canes will have
smaller and less woody tendrils. many will
probably be dead or break off quite easily.
the second or third year tendrils are thicker
and woody (if they are still alive).
this is only a general description, it might
be somewhat different for each vine as you look
with a little experience you'll get it down. :)
if you have a local agricultural extension
office you might have some help from them
or a local greenhouse person. if you were local
to me i'd pop over and point. or even posting
pictures (someplace we can peek at) and we can
make comments upon them here.
yeah, could be many reasons including pests
in the soil. you may not want to replant without
knowing more. it doesn't hurt to leave some space
empty for a season or two until you do some reading
and research. if the vines were too tightly
planted to begin with you might just be able to
fill in the space from the neighboring vines.
and if the varieties were wrong then you won't
be making a mistake by waiting to figure out what
you have and then filling in the spaces with
vines that are more suitable and complement the
other vines you have.
don't worry too much about making mistakes,
that is how you will learn. most grapes will
recover from being pruned heavily.
now is a better time for a lot of basic
reshaping work because as spring gets closer
the buds will swell and they become more
easily damaged or knocked off. in the spring
you can trim off whatever is left over from
winterkill and any fine tuning.
i'm a big fan of "trying things" to see how
it goes. so i'd pick one vine that i wanted
to learn from, (the one in the worst shape)
study it from the ground up and then take half
of it almost completely back to the main trunk
leaving only a few major canes along whatever
structure i was using for support.
the other half i would only trim out the
obviously dead stuff and perhaps a few of
the more complicated tangles (to simplify
things for the next season).
it's much easier to manage a vine if it's
not all wrapped around itself or tangled in
the surrounding vines. leaving half the plant
means at least there will be some kind of
chance at getting a crop. as it grows next
year then you can see what the results of
the pruning on the other side have accomplished
plus you'll be one season further along in
experience and know one year canes from
the older growth.
if i had ten grapes i'd take the most
complicated and beat up one back to the
ground and start over training that one
back into shape. it takes two to three
growing seasons to get a good crop.
four of the other vines i would look at
to see which were the worst and i'd do
them over half at a time (always seeking to
remove tangles and complexity and returning
the main structure of the vine towards
reflecting the support system and the
the remaining five i would only take
out the dead stuff and reduce some of
the tangles, but i'd leave most of them
alone (and do them by half next season
or wait two years to be sure i'm doing
the others ok).
above is what comes to mind. :)
there are a ton of good books you can get at
the local library maybe even some videos. if your
library is part of a larger network it can often
request items it doesn't have from surrounding
libraries or your state universities (depending).
your local greenhouse or master gardeners club can
be a great help too.
:) good luck, watch out for your fingers,
those pruning sheers can take a cane off they
can do a number on a digit.
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