I have almost finished pruning the grapes. This task has dragged on longer than I’d hoped, partly due to all the rain we’ve been having, and partly because it has taken me a long time to fight my way through the tangled mass of vines. Last winter, we were foolish enough to neglect this task, and ended up with a mass of rampant grape vines bearing hardly any fruit. What a waste! When we moved onto the Farmlet, one white grape and three purple grapes were already well established along the fence bordering the house paddock. They are good varieties, and should bear lots of delicious fruit if we look after them properly! This year, we were determined to do our best with them.
Having never pruned grapes before, I looked out the window a couple of weeks ago at the overgrown mass of vines, and felt very conscious of my inexperience in this matter. The following excerpt from The Encyclopedia of Country Living made me feel more hopeful about the probable outcome of the pruning:
An early settler planted a grape vineyard. It grew fine for several years, but eventually the settler moved on and the vines were left and the vines were left unpruned and neglected. Eventually they grew out of site and rambled along the ground. The grapes were poor in quality and out of reach. A new owner bought the property with the intent of raising livestock and pack animals in the forgotten fields. A year or two later the animals had nibbled back all of the vines. Thereafter the vines returned and fruited magnificently. The moral: Any ass can prune a grapevine.
Based on advice from a neighbour, and the instructions in The Encyclopedia of Country Living (which are beautifully simple and to-the-point), I set out with a rough idea of how to prune “European variety” grapes. The goats have been the happy recipients of any grape prunings that still had leaves on them. Of course, I’ve been finding that my nice neat pruning intentions are rather challenged by the tangle of vines I’m working with. They have snaked their way up trees and through the grass. I’ve heard that it is possible to over-prune grapevines, resulting in increased leafy growth and less fruit the following season. For that reason, I’m not pruning the grapes quite as hard as I might. Perhaps the vines will fruit better if I put off the last of the “taming and renovation” project until next winter? In any case, we hope that eventually the effort of pruning will be rewarded with an abundant harvest of delicious grapes.