Saturday, 28 July 2018

Growing your own grapes - summer pruning

Summer pruning grapevines Green Fingered Blog

A few minutes is all you need to summer prune grapevines. Some simple steps in summer can help you get bigger and riper grapes when you pick them in autumn.




Grapevines are really easy to grow - if you can do it in Wales then you can try almost anywhere! They are climbing plants so as long as you have something for them to climb up you can have a go. You can even grow them in a container, though the bigger the better and you'll need to water them regularly.

They don't need much looking after. Just tie them in to a support and let them go. But to get the best put of them, here are some simple pruning tasks for summer. 



Summer pruning of grow your own grapes




Remove unwanted horizontal stems

As with most fruiting plants, reducing the amount of foliage helps redirect the plants energy away from growing extra shoots and into producing decent fruits instead.

Grapevines will spread in all directions. By midsummer they will have grown quite a bit and started to produce bunches of grapes. 

Now we don't want any more leafy growth, just nice big juicy grapes.

First remove any unwanted horizontal shoots. Mine grows over a pergola, and these side shoots get in the way of anyone walking underneath, so I cut them right back to a bud on the main structure of the plant.
Summer pruning grapevines Green Fingered Blog
Horizontal shoots get in the way



Remove unwanted vertical stems


Grapevines produce lots of vertical shoots all the way along. Once the vine is trained to its support structure we don't need it to go up any more. Some of these will carry fruit and can be tied into the horizontal so the grapes hang down. The ones without fruit can be removed.

The part of the shoot that carries on growing above a bunch of grapes can also be cut back to just above the grapes below.

Summer pruning grapevines Green Fingered Blog
Vertical shoots above the grapes aren't needed


Remove shoots that shade your grapes

Those vertical shoots actually shade the grapes below from the sun. We want as much sun as possible to reach all the grapes so they ripen. I remove any other shoots or leaves that block out sun from the bunches that are developing.

Summer pruning grapevines Green Fingered Blog
These bunches were shaded...

Summer pruning grapevines Green Fingered Blog
...but now bask in the sun


Reduce the number of bunches 

With grapes, less is more. If you allow too many bunches to develop, the grapes will be smaller. The plant can only do so much. For nice big juicy grapes, it's necessary to have less fruit overall, so that what you do have is bigger and better.

It can take time to work out the optimum number of bunches your grapevine can produce to a good size. It will vary according to variety and local conditions.

Mine produced nearly sixty last year but they were a bit small to enjoy eating, so this year I have thinned the to less than thirty. They already look like they will be bigger than last year.  

In midsummer the vine can start producing additional tiny bunches, These wont have time to reach any worthwhile size so just cut them out and stick with what you've already got.


Thin out individual bunches


Having reduced the number of bunches, I then reduce the number of grapes in each bunch, for the same reason. 

These bunches were so jammed with grapes it was actually difficult to prize them apart in order to remove some of them!
Summer pruning grapevines Green Fingered Blog
Tightly packed bunches of grapes before thinning...


I removed a number of grapes from each bunch either by pulling them off or with secateurs. When doing this you will also notice some extra tiny grapes that would never get the chance to develop fully. 

Removing these is very fiddly but I take out as many of them as I can. 

I'm not precise about the proportion of grapes I remove, I just aim to reduce the overall number so that whats left can grow bigger then they would otherwise do. Judge for yourself how much I removed from those two bunches above - here they are afterwards:

Summer pruning grapevines Green Fingered Blog
...and afterwards

That's all it takes! I will have less grapes than last year but they should be much more worthwhile eating. And that pruning took less than an hour in total, spread over a few sessions across about a week. 

If you grow your own grapes and have any advice, do share it with the rest of us in the comments below. Check the Green Fingered Blog all summer to see how mine get on.

Happy growing,
Paul 



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2 comments:

  1. Good tips already used except thinning the grapes... I will do this afternoon !

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  2. Great! Hope it went well. Let me know what sort of harvest you get. How many vines do you have?

    ReplyDelete