Grapevine care has a few secrets that I learned and now I want to share them with you.
Grapevine Care Requires Pruning
Grapevine care isn't as easy as it may seem. If left alone, the grapevine grows like any other vine and it spreads, covering the trees, fences, bushes or anything the vines can climb on. They are attached through tendrils, which twist around the tree's branches or the wires in the fence. At first, the tendrils are tender, but after a while they they strengthen, so that the vines are almost stuck to their support. That's why grapevines need pruning, like any other fruit tree or bush. No one wants a haphazard grapevine, covering everything around, but a well-grown, well guided grapevine, that looks beautiful and more importantly, produces grapes. This is why I had to learn about grapevine pruning, which is totally different from pruning a tree or a bush.
My Grapevine's Story
My grapevine is a somehow wild variety, because my mom grew it from grape seeds. She gave it to me when it was a few inches tall. I'd never had a grapevine before and didn't know anything about them, however I thought it would look great on my wired fence, so I planted it near a bare section. I like to grow vines on my fence, although it is a hard work to keep them from spreading around. In a few years, my grapevine grew and covered a small part of the fence of about 100 square feet (almost 10 square meters), looking lush and beautiful. The green foliage is very decorative all summer long, however in the fall, the grapes add more color and beauty to the vine. My grapes proved to be a wine variety (Vitis vinifera) with very small and dark purple grapes. At first, I enjoyed them as they were, although their peel was hard to chew. Later, I decided I'd better make them into juice and drink a glass of it every day.
During the next few years, the grapevine spread more and more. I managed to train it to spread on a larger fence area, which now provides shade and screening to that part of the garden. Not to mention the actual grapes, which produced more and more every year - until the starlings found them. That's when I began a fight for my grapes, with the starlings. It was an unfair fight - them being so many and I, all alone. But I found a solution for it, by covering the grapevine with some nets, which I now do every summer, as soon as the grapes start to ripen. A one day delay (or even an hour) can make a difference, because the starlings can eat all the grapes in a matter of minutes!
A Few Rules For Grapevine Pruning and Training
Until the grapes start to ripen, I had to take care of the vine, so it could spread properly and produce many grape clusters. I've learned about pruning a grapevine and I've been doing a great job, judging by the generous crop. They say it's best to prune a grapevine in late winter or early spring, when the weather starts to warm up and the buds appear on the vines. As all beginners do, I started my first grapevine pruning with only the dry tips of the vines and some of the rebel vines, which weren't climbing up the fence, but on the opposite side. They say you should keep two of the healthier, older vines (mature shoots or canes) grown from the main trunk and prune the one year shoots, as short as possible. One year shoots are the new shoots that sprout and grow during the summer. In the first years, I didn't want to prune them too short, as I wanted to guide them up and along the wired fence. Once I had older vines attached to the fence, I only pruned the vines sprouting from them, very short, down to the first bud.
I continued to do so, while guiding some of the stronger one year old, better positioned shoots (which were closer to the fence) upward and along the fence, to cover more of it. From each of these old shoots sprout many new shoots in the spring, on which appear the grape clusters. At first, the grapevine didn't produce many grape clusters, but after it grew bigger (larger) and had more one year shoots, my grapevine started to produce lots of grapes.
Three Little Secrets for Growing Bigger Grapes
Many friends told me that my grapes were too small. That didn't bother me, as I knew how I got the grapevine, which wasn't a modern hybrid variety, bought from the nursery and it surely doesn't have the mother-plant's properties, as it sprouted from seeds and not from a cutting. Moreover, I didn't cross it with a more resistant to disease variety by pollination, as it is usually done. But then, a friend gave me a tip and after that, everything has changed in my grapevine's growth. These are the secrets I was telling you about - well, actually there are three secrets. He mentioned something about having to prune the new shoots at the top of his grapevine, that were growing far too long and weren't bearing any grapes, so they were uselessly sucking the grapevine's food. Once those removed, the grapevine's energy would be concentrated into producing larger grapes. As I was amazed and asked for more information, my friend told me about the second secret.
He told me that I should also remove 1/3 of the suckers growing from each leaf, on each shoot, for the same reason. There is also a third secret, or better said, recommendation, to remove some of the leaves, randomly, so that sunlight and air can reach and circulate around the grapes. It also prevents pests attack and disease. After cutting many grapevine leaves, people living in Eastern Europe cook a delicious meal, with Turkish origins, made with grapevine leaves, that is called pork (or rice) stuffed grapevine rolls. These are similar to the famous dish 'sarmale' also called, pork stuffed cabbage rolls.
Thanks to these three little secrets, my grapes are now growing bigger than before, when my grapevine was spreading like crazy. The difference is noticeable and the grapevine looks even better now.
So, now you know too. All you have to do is go and check your grapevine and prune the new shoots right away. Don't be afraid that you will prune wrong - even so, the grapevine is resistant and perennial, it won't die if you prune more or less! But you can get bigger grapes, which is a good reason to try.
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