Q. I read your column about fruit and flowers only growing on 2 year old wood grapevines. So now I am confused about how to prune my beautiful grape vines. Just what do I remove, or do I even need to remove any of the vines?
A. Yes, it can be confusing. Maybe you can think of grapes this way. The first year the plant pushes new growth. There is no fruit on first year growth (first year wood). This new growth must be fully grown and mature to support the fruit that will grow on it the following year (second year wood).
|This is new growth of grape, a few months old. This growth will produce fruit the next year, second year wood.|
The second year the plant again pushes new growth from its end or sides (first year growth). First year growth always comes from second year wood. While it is pushing this new growth, it is also pushing flowers and fruit to grow on the previous year's growth (second year wood). The vine is doing two things at the same time. It is always pushing new growth that does not support fruit (first year wood). At the same time it is pushing flowers and fruit from the previous year's growth (second year growth).
|This is a grape flower cluster that will become a bunch of grapes in about five months. These grape flower clusters can only grow from stems or wood, that are growing in their second year.|
Different grapes produce flowers and fruit in different locations along second year of growth. Some grapes produce flowers and fruit at the very base or bottom of the second year growth (second year wood). This fruit is mostly produced very close to the juncture of the first and second year growth. When pruning these kinds of grapes we only have to leave about 1/2 inch of the second year growth remaining. The rest is cut off.
Removing all of the second year growth except for one half inch results in a "spur" of second year wood. We say that these kinds of grapes should be "spur pruned". From these "spurs" we allow new growth but this new growth is always cut back again leaving only about 1/2 inch. From these "spurs", it is a continuous cycle of growth one year and cutting it back to 1/2 inch in late winter of the second year. Growth and cut back to a half inch, growth and cut back to a half inch, etc.
Other grapes do not produce flowers and fruit at the base of the second year wood. Instead, they produce flowers and fruit further away from the base at a distance of perhaps 10 or 12 inches from the base or more. When we prune these grapes, we must not cut back too much or we will remove all the fruit. When pruning grapes such as these we must leave very long spurs to accommodate for the flowers and fruit. We no longer call these "spurs" because they are too long. Extra long spurs are called "canes". Grapes that are pruned so that second year wood is 10, 12 or perhaps 18 inches long are "cane pruned".
When pruning grapes it is important to know where the fruit is produced along the second year wood. If the fruit is produced at the base of second year growth, it is "spur pruned". If the fruit is produced several inches away from the base, it must be "cane pruned".