Winter Pruning

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Winter Pruning

Post  Linda Baehr on Mon Jan 26, 2009 11:10 pm

When do you do it and why do you do it when you do? I think there was a thread on this on some other board far far away, but I would like to hear it again. Very Happy
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Linda Baehr

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Re: Winter Pruning

Post  John Holdredge on Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:35 am

Maybe a catchier title would drum up more activity....."When do you do IT, and why?" might work better....

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Re: Winter Pruning

Post  Bruce Hubbard on Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:41 am

Hi Linda,

I have a small (600 vine) vineyard down here in San Diego.

I usually begin pruning once the vines are solidly into dormancy which I define as when most of them have lost their leaves, usually late December or early January, depending upon the weather down here. It is really, really important to finish the cane pruning before budbreak, which down here can be as early as April. If I prune in March, even before budbreak, I notice that many of the vines "bleed" sap. I have read that this bleeding does not set the vine back or harm it, but I prefer to not prune that late. All of my vines are one or two lateral cordons with spur pruning. Next step after the cane pruning is in April when one must rub off all of the extraneous shoots that emerge all over the hardwood. That is a real pain and must be done weekly for about a month or ootherwise I end up with a big bush that has lots of leaves and few fruit. Hope that answers your question. Do you have a vineyard or just the winery?
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Re: Winter Pruning

Post  Nate Weis on Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:43 am

Pre-pruning now. Sap has been running lately due to the conditions. Methinks it will then be best to wait as long as possible to do the fine pruning....we're at a pretty big risk for frost up here most years.

Guess I'd typically be of that mind most years. I'm not sure what pruning early would accomplish? Any ideas on a good reason to do it earlier rather than later?

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Re: Winter Pruning

Post  Roy Piper on Tue Jan 27, 2009 7:24 pm

Okay.....two questions....

1. When you have a warm week like we did last, can this take a vine out of dormancy? If so, how can doing this hurt a vintage quality?

2. Why pre-prune?
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Re: Winter Pruning

Post  Nate Weis on Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:02 pm

1. Worst-case, yes. There have been reports of buds swelling in some of the warmer parts of the valley. This is bad news. Sap running tells me that the plant is not as dormant as we would like. However, we have had some pretty nice cold nights and I haven't seen any swelling here. Another hat I wear has to do with some fruit orchards. In that business, chilling units (similar concept to degree days) are what's important and measurable for dormancy. Despite the warm conditions, the nights have been cold enough to keep chilling units in line with where they should be.

In terms of vintage quality, just think about the corresponding growing season with a Jan/Feb budbreak. Frost will kick you in the nuts and you'll be ripening in the wrong part of the season (at least in CA, where late season rains aren't usually an issue). Internodes will be wacky, your buds for next season might not get the right amount of light at the right time. Potentially, one f'ed up mess from the forest perspective. From a tree perspective, not necessarily going to kill wine quality for that particular vintage....if you like picking Cabernet in August.

2. Three reasons. First, it makes the fine pruning easier and the crews can take their time rather than deal with tendrils and longer canes whipping them in the eye and concentrate on leaving the correct buds. Second, it can be mechanized (although it isn't here) and thus saves money. Third, apical dominance in grapevines makes it a good hedge against frost. The buds at the top of the cane will push first and act as a sink (the cane or spur might be 5-6 buds long at this point). You can leave them out to gobble up growth potential into frost season and if they get frosted, no BFD. You're going to trash them anyways when you fine prune. A similar concept is the ol' kicker cane....leaving extra buds on a cane/spur to gobble up carbs and ostensibly control vigor in your fruiting positions, until you deem it acceptable to sh-tcan the kicker.

FWIW, some folks who do a lot of bud dissection are reporting lower fruitfulness for 2009. I know of a couple folks who are hedging their yield bets with kickers as well.

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