Working in the vineyard

Pruning Grape Vines


One of my favorite things to do on the homestead is pruning the grape vines in our small vineyard.  We have 50 vines of Marquette grapes that we use to make delicious homemade wine.  We also have two Niagara grape vines for jelly. Pruning is done once the vines are dormant.  We usually prune on a warm winter day because we get the itch to be outside.  Pruning grape vines is more like doing a puzzle than doing actual work.  Pruning will clear your mind of all other thoughts.  The reason we prune is to allow the vine to grow beautiful full ripe grapes. If left un-pruned, a vine will grow an abundance of small grapes that are usually sour because the vine does not have the ability to ripen so many grapes correctly.  Our Marquette vines seem to do well with 6-8 buds per foot of vine. Our Niagara vines seem to prefer 10-12 buds per foot. Pruning is one of the most important things that you can do to affect the sugar content of your grapes.


We begin pruning each vine by taking an assessment.  We look for spurs and shoots that come off of the main cordon. We have a top wire trellis system that works well for both types of grape we grow and the space we have to grow them in.


The first thing we prune off are all of the shoots coming off of the trunk.  We then move on to the canes. We made a short video of us working in the vineyard today.

Once you get the hang of it, you just want to keep pruning.  We usually leave a few extra buds per foot of vine, in case we  get a bad frost in the spring.  If we don’t get one, we can always prune the extra buds then.  Working in the vineyard is always a relaxing experience, the grapes take time to grow and there is no need to rush.  Often in the summer we will walk through the vineyard with a glass of wine and check on the grapes progress.   Its as close as we will ever get to Napa valley.


Once pruned the vineyard seems civilized again.  Now the long wait for spring and bud break.  Our vines are one of the first things to show signs of life in the spring.  They pull you out of hibernation with them.


Before you know it, it is summer time in the vineyard and the girls are running wild.  Thanks for the fertilizer ladies.

In the end, you are after beautiful clusters of grapes for wine making.  As the summer rolls on you are rewarded.


Finally, it is time for harvesting the grapes and wine making, which is our ultimate goal.  If there is one thing we’ve learned about the grapes is that they take time, the same is true of wine making.  If you are looking for a relaxing pursuit then you should plant a vineyard.



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