Pruning Grapes

Pruning Grapes

Part of Ep. 904 The Winter Garden

Prune grapevines in early spring with and Phillipe Coquard at Wollersheim Winery in Sauk City.   Wine growers prune vines to maintain grape quality, to lengthen the vine’s life and to control the crop size. Coquard also shares planting and pruning tips for gardeners planting grapes at home.

Premiere date: Dec 26, 2001

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Late winter and early spring is generally considered a down time for gardeners. And true, we can't be weeding outside, but pruning is a major activity for this time of year. We're at Wollersheim Winery in southern Wisconsin and we're going to talk about pruning grapevines. We're with Phillipe Coquard, he's known around here as the winemaker, the grape grower and today the grape pruner. Phillipe thank you for letting us join you.

Phillipe:
Hello.

Shelley:
I have to ask a question. When I walk in the woods I see wild grapes, nobody has ever pruned them. Why do we have to prune?

Phillipe:
For many reasons, three reasons. Quality reasons, good grape, good wine. Longevity of the vine. It will ensure the vine will be alive for the next 20 to 30 years, and also the size of the crop.

Shelley:
Good reasons then. Where do we start?

Phillipe:
First of all you have to step back a little bit and judge, assess if the vine is well balanced. This is a beautiful vine, very well opened, and the shoots are nice and straight, hang down. You are always looking at the ripening of the fruit, sun penetration, and you want this vine open and balanced like it is.

Shelley:
Alright, so the sunlight can get to all parts of it.

Phillipe:
Everywhere.

Shelley:
Okay, then what do we do.

Phillipe:
So we would be trying to recreate exactly what this vine had last year. Those are the little spurs that were left last year, this is last year's pruning right here, right there. Right here. Each spur had two or three buds, for such a vine which is 30 years old we have seven to eight spurs per side, meaning 15 to18 buds per side times two, 30 to 40 buds.

Shelley:
So about two buds per spur. Where would you make some of your cuts there?

Phillipe:
Actually, right here. I will take out, we always try to stay the closest to the main cane as possible, so we cut right here, and again. Here are my two buds.

Shelley:
Okay, so we will get shoots that will be coming out of these two buds. And that's where the grapes will come from?

Phillipe:
Right here, out of those two little buds you will get a nice big healthy shoot, which will have two or three clusters and on such a vine two or three clusters per shoot will be eight to ten pounds of fruit per vine.

Shelley:
Wow, that will do me. Okay, now you have a finished one, let's take a look at the difference here. Wow, this is a haircut.

Phillipe:
This is quite drastic and we remove anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of the shoots.

Shelley:
And so we have about 16 spurs on each side and each spur has about two buds?

Phillipe:
We have 16 buds, we have eight spurs.

Shelley:
Okay, so two buds per spur. Am I as a homeowner going to want this drastic?

Phillipe:
You could leave each spur a little bit longer. On this slope, for this quality wine, we want 30 buds, more or less, per vine. In your backyard, you could push it to 50 or 60 buds per vine.

Shelley:
They might be double the length of yours.

Phillipe:
Double the size, three to four or five buds, spurs.

Shelley:
Okay. Let's go back to the beginning. I'm just planting my first grapes because now you've got me all excited about this. How do I start?

Phillipe:
Well this is a vine, which was a cutting last year, it was into a nursery for a year, and that's the way we get our vine. So we will clip all of the roots, and we will prune the top, take the nicest, straightest top, this is the vine.

Shelley:
That's it.

Phillipe:
This is it, this is it. So this is part of the roots, not part of the trunk.

Shelley:
So this has to be planted in the ground then?

Phillipe:
Absolutely. Quite often people make the mistake to plant them that so, and this part will dry out completely. So ground level, my hand being ground level, this is how deep it needs to be planted.

Shelley:
Eight to ten inches in the ground. And for the first year we planted it, then do we do anything to it that first year?

Phillipe:
No, you just let everything grow. Each of those little buds will have green shoots, just trim them straight up on a piece of conduit.

Shelley:
Get this in right away then.

Phillipe:
As soon as it's planted get a stick to it, and keep tying the green shoots.

Shelley:
So basically the first year it just establishes roots and we tie it to go up. Second year?

Phillipe:
Second year, you will end up, you will be in trunk formation. You will end up with one or two nice straight shoots, you will always promote the growth at the top so that it will reach the top within a year or two.

Shelley:
So you're getting rid of everything below there.

Phillipe:
Absolutely. It will break your heart, but you just break them, clean them out, and leave the top two.

Shelley:
And we're up to a harvest size in what, three years?

Phillipe:
Three years. So the first year, you can be here, the second year you can start fruiting cane, third year you start the second one, fourth year you extend the other one, and then you're in business.

Shelley:
So we get fruit by that third year.

Phillipe:
Yes.

Shelley:
That's not too bad. Why do we even have to train them up, why can't I just put a tomato cage around it?

Phillipe:
Genetically the concord, the grapes suited to the midwest are bred to hand down.

Shelley:
Okay, so they're happier that way.

Phillipe:
Absolutely, better fruit.

Shelley:
Thank you very much Phillipe.

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