Q:

How do you know the proper timing to prune grape vines?

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Quick Answer

Dormant pruning, the most-important practice in vineyard management, is done after the vine has been bare for at least a month, between mid-December and bud break in March. Pruning too early impedes the absorption of the remaining nitrate nitrogen from the xylem fluid within the woody stems, needed for conversion into arginine for next season's growth. If a test cut in the vine does not emit any of this watery substance, the vine is dormant and ready to prune.

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How do you know the proper timing to prune grape vines?
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Full Answer

Fall-pruned grape vines are more-susceptible to winter injury than those not pruned. For best results, prune grape vines about a month before spring bud break. In areas where late frosts are frequent, protect vines by pruning near the end of the dormancy season, thereby slightly inhibiting early spring growth.

The principle behind pruning and training the grape vines is to create the best conditions for optimizing production potential by maintaining a balance between vegetative growth and fruiting. The wood removed in the pruning process makes the grape vines stronger and hardier and removes excess vegetation, creating a more-balanced vine. Effective vine-pruning also involves an understanding of what should be retained in the pruning process. Retained canes are those with less-persistent laterals, with a location on the outside of the vine canopy that exposes them to abundant sunlight. The canes exhibit good wood maturation, are 1/4- to 1/2-inch in diameter, have 4- to 6-inch inter-nodes, and are a rich, dark-brown color.

Hand tools used for grape vine-pruning typically include loppers, hand pruners and handsaws. It is essential to avoid injury to the plant by using the most-appropriate tool. A hand pruner is effective for year-old shoots, but a lopper or handsaw is needed for cutting larger vine wood.

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