Vineyard diary 1, pruning

As part of my Plumpton vineyard practical module I need to keep a diary of my work during the 1-day-a-week sessions. Today was the first day.

Weather about 10C, and mostly overcast, though dry. Today I was at Rock Lodge doing winter pruning. The vines are all deep in their dormant phase.

I pruned 3 different ages of vines today.

The first lot were very young vines, only planted in May 2010 (<1 year old), and they were not the biggest even for their age. These required a quick clear of the vineguard, and pruning back to a single cane off the truck, right back to 2 shoots. This severe pruning will hopefully encourage the start of growth of a single, strong truck during the coming season. This work was all close to the ground, and I spent a lot of the time on one knee. Hhhmmm….am thinking I should have kept a record of how many I got through in an hour.

The second lot of vines I pruned were older. Although yet without trellising (just tutors) these vines were planted in 2008 so much larger. Under Kevin’s instruction I pruned these so that they had, if possible, a 2-bud spur at around 80cm and also a cane of 6-buds above 80cm. This is the first stage in developing the vine head at about that level.

The third lot of vines I pruned today were more mature vines, so more standard pruning. The first step was to calculate a charge count for the vine in question. This is a calculation of how much growth it put on in the previous season. The length and thickness of each of the previous season’s canes gives each of the canes a “count” (eg 0.5, 1, 1.5, etc) with a 1m pencil-thick cane being a “1”. The count is summed for the vine and 2 added for good measure and then this total is the number of nodes to leave the vine with after pruning. If more than 12 then double guyot (nodes split between 2 canes), if less than 12 then single guyot (i.e. just one cane). The aim was also to leave 2, 2-bud spurs on which next year’s replacement canes can shoot this year. The other considerations are not to prune as spurs or canes anything which protrudes into rows or grows from under the head, to try to keep the vine-head reasonably compact, and to prune canes and spurs so the spurs come sooner in the sap-flow (lower down) than the adjacent cane. That’s the basic theory, but of course compromised by the reality of each vine never quite conforming to the theoretic model. What yet again surprised me (I’ve done a little pruning before) was how much concentration it took to try to get it right. The idea eventually is to be able to judge how many buds to prune to just by looking at the vine. Then I pulled out the prunings in the rows I’d done and dumped them in the middle of the alleys for later mowing to mulch.

A good day’s work, and a lot learned about pruning. I know there’ll be a lot more of it in the coming weeks, hopefully with pictures next time!

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