winter pruning in Italy

Discussion in 'Grapes and Grape Vines' started by stephanietulp, Sep 19, 2009.

  1. stephanietulp

    stephanietulp Member

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    Lucca, Italy
    Hi, in the fall of 2008 I planted some grapes in my Tuscan garden in Italy. I've pruned them in the summer and let them grow upwards, and now they have reached a lenght of about 2 meters :-).
    I'm aware that I have to prune them again in winter time, but the problem is that I'm not in Italy during this time! I will be leaving my beautifull garden on the 30th of September, and won't be able to return before the 1st of May.
    So, what to do about the winter pruning? Should I take the change of frost damage (it may not freeze here, but it might get close to it as we are at a height of 480 m.), or should I wait until the 1st of May, and prune my young grapes then? I've looked all over the internet, but can't find a suitable answer. What's worse?
     
  2. Ralph Walton

    Ralph Walton Active Member 10 Years

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    Surely there is some local talent (retired grower, small-holding farmer...) that you can enlist to watch and prune when it is appropriate? Perhaps some ongoing advice and crop sharing so it's a two-way exchange?

    The problem is that hardening off and dormancy is a process not an event and it takes time. If you remove the "excess" canes and foliage before that is complete the plant strength and frost resistance may be compromised. On the other hand, if you prune in May the plant will have spent a good portion of it's stored strength growing shoots you don't want. Your only potentially saving grace is that the plants are new and you are not (I hope) expecting a crop next year (you are planning to prune off all the flowers and fruit - right?), so in May you can select the cane that will become the permanent cordon without worrying about all the little bunches of grapes you are discarding.

    If you can't find a "co-cropper" I'd suggest a partial prune before you leave - maybe 50% of a "normal" pruning - taking off the obviously inferior canes entirely (as opposed to shortening all of them), followed by a more severe selection and pruning in May.

    Or you could send me a plane ticket and I'll go over and prune them in January (coach would be fine).

    Ralph
     
  3. vitog

    vitog Contributor 10 Years

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    I always prune off all of the canes that aren't needed for next year as soon as the grapes are harvested. This leaves more energy and light for ripening next year's canes. If you do this, then in May next year you will only need to shorten the remaining "good" canes.
     
  4. stephanietulp

    stephanietulp Member

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    Hi Ralph,

    Thanks for sending me such a lenghty reply. I understand what you mean (or at least I hope I do), but I have an additional question:
    I'm growing these two grapes in order to cover a small pergola. My grapes are now just a bit higher then the top of the pergola is.
    Now here's my question: should I prune them at all anyway, because I just want to have grapes growing on the overhead, and not (especially) on the outside wall going upwards. I hope you understand.., I'm Dutch so my english is somewhat imperfect.
     
  5. Ralph Walton

    Ralph Walton Active Member 10 Years

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    Stephanie:
    Your English is fine for this conversation. The majority of pruning advice online and off is for vineyard growing for wine; pruning for a pergola will be different because your goals are different. Next year should be dedicated to growing a few canes up and over your structure from each side. Decide whether you want foliage up the sides as well as on the top or just on the top (both are legitimate choices - depends on your taste and preferences). In the long run you will prune to leave spurs (for the next year's growth to start from) wherever you want to have foliage and fruit.

    Vitog has a point: "This leaves more energy and light for ripening next year's canes ". When you start to look for fruit (year after next) the spurs you leave need to have had sun exposure particularly at the end of the year in order to ripen the buds, otherwise they may not produce fruit, just canes with lots of leafy growth. Some varieties and pruning regimes (or lack thereof) will shade out the canes giving you lovely vigorous vines but no grapes and that can be frustrating especially with only two vines.

    To prune at all? Definitely, if you want "bare" sides with the leaves & fruit on top. Prune to the 4 strongest canes this fall and select the 2 best of those (on each side) and train those upwards in May. Prune off side shoots next summer up to just below where you want your foliage and fruit. The shoots at this location will be the ones left for the following year's growth, so they will need to be exposed to the sun later in the season so you see some grapes in year 3. If you can find a vineyard with the same variety, the vine structure at the bottom wire is what you should try for at this higher location. You may eventually want to prune off the second cordon on each side, leaving a single trunk up each side of the pergola.

    In the really long term, if you plant a couple of cuttings (http://www.bunchgrapes.com/cuttings.html) so you have 2 vines per side, you can train them up the pergola and entwine or graft them together to make a living free-standing arbor that will hold itself up when the pergola rots out (they all do eventually) Have a look at this: http://www.pooktre.com/

    Ralph
     

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