Grapevine Planting / pruning – a quick guide

This is a brief post with a link to the full article, hopefully it may explain a few of the ways to grow a grapevine.

www.readsnursery.co.uk/grapevine-care/

GRAPEVINE CULTIVATION

There is a grape variety to suit most situations and they can be grown indoors, outdoors or in a pot for fruit production or decorative purposes.

Planting Outdoors

Grapevines are happy to grow in a wide range of soil types providing they are deep and free draining with a pH of around 6.5-7.0. Drainage is very important and attention must be given to this issue if the soil is poor draining .

Grapes need is a sunny sheltered aspect. Water is very important to a vine and even an established vine will need additional water in the growing season. It must be emphasised again – water logging in winter is a major contributing factor to the failure of a vine.

Where planted against a wall leave a gap of 18 inches /45 cm to keep the roots away from the dry spot at the base of the wall, using a cane to tie the vine to for additional support while it is establishing.

Wires will need fixing to the wall for support every 12-15 inches /30cm,use spacers to keep the wire away from the wall creating an air gap.

Planting Indoors

There are differing opinions regarding vines for the greenhouse. It really does not matter if grape is planted outside the greenhouse and fed inside or if it is planted inside. The advantage to outside planting is that the plant requires less water but an inside planted vine has the advantage of an earlier start into growth. A strong support system will be required .

Planting In Pots

The ideal growing medium for grapes in pots is John Innes No3. Plant in a wide bottomed pot as this adds to the stability and it will not blow over as easily. Remember to crock the pot well and place in a good sunny spot. Winter protection will be needed either by placing in a cold greenhouse or wrapping the pot to protect the root ball.

Pruning

This can be described as an extremely complex subject, but it actually isn’t, pruning vines is a very simple logical process.

There are two main methods for home gardeners to consider; drawn here for simplicity of explanation, there is also a video – here.

Spur Pruning for European ( vitis vinifera) greenhouse grapevines such as Black Hamburgh and Muscat Alexandria also used when growing over a pergola perhaps.

Full article and sketches available via the link above.

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Peaches & May

May is the best month for pruning peach and nectarine trees. This post is for bush trees,( yes they are hardy enough in most parts of the UK), fan trained trees can also be pruned now, the principles are the same except the tree is flat ! I will post separately on Fan training.

Trees that were planted early in the Autumn will by now be growing strongly and it should be obvious where most pruning cuts need to be. There is one overriding rule to remember when pruning peach and nectarine trees in May – Fruit is ONLY borne on the second year wood, consequently you need to be able to replace this each year with fresh, strong shoots that will carry the following years fruit.

Shoot tips- are they growing strongly ? Those that are, leave well alone .

Weak, spindly shoots need to be taken off completely.

Those with ‘blind wood’ (a length of wood behind a shoot with buds which have not opened or grown) need pruning back to just above the second strong side shoot.

By doing this you will also have now taken out any wood that has die back on it, leaving you with healthy vigorous shoots that will be ready to carry next years crop.

The bush tree pruning is now nearly complete – simple really, one other consideration is the access for picking fruits in the centre of the bush at harvest, remember that the light and sun will need to ripen the fruits and the picker will need to get into the centre to collect the fruit so leave space for both by thinning out any overcrowding branches that cross into the centre of the tree.

Thinning the fruits is a two pronged affair, the first few will be taken off by pruning as above, also check for twins, these will need to be singled out or neither will ripen properly, then check that all the remaining fruits are at least 4″apart.

Second thinning is done after the fruit reach thumbnail size, there may by now have been a small , natural drop, but you need to go over the tree thinning to 8″ – or a hand span apart.

Trees that are not growing vigorously will need looking at to assess the reason, are you feeding? with what , and how often do you feed your tree ? Peaches are very heavy feeders and can look chlorotic and pale if left alone. Consider foliar feeding with Seasol seaweed or a liquid feed to the roots as a temporary measure, then get some slow release pellets onto the soil as soon as you can and water them in well.

Have I explained this in a way you can get to grips with ? Let me know so I can edit if needed.

A Fig Tree for every garden.

Ancient fig trees are majestic things, wild snaking branches head off in all directions, dropping down to add more roots then racing off again. Young fig trees are just as impressive in the crop they can (and should) give you. The tree below is 7 years since planting and will average 30-40 fruit, not a huge quantity, but the quality, is the thing.

The total height and spread is around 6 ft (2m) and this picture is taken in early summer, just before it was pruned to let the sun get at the figs.As you can see it is in the open with only a hedge 40 ft away for protection. The roots are not restricted as the soil conditions are solid, brick making clay !

The real trick in getting figs to ripen in the UK  is pruning, feeding and watering (is that 3 tricks ?). I am constantly answering the question; “my fig tree has loads of fruit and they all drop off”, with another question; “do you ever feed or water it ?” -the answer is always “no”. Fig trees in the wild will grow in the most appalling conditions, in rocks, on the sides of mountains, but they are designed to do this with huge root systems to seek out food and water. In a garden environment more care is needed if you wish to savour the rewards and have a tree that is only 8ft tall.

Plant your tree carefully, as you would any other, with the exception that it likes to be 2″ deeper than it was in the pot when planted. In clay soil give it a good 3ft square hole to live in with good free draining loam to put roots into. In good fertile garden soil some root restriction will be needed, use paving slabs as walls, packing them tight together and leave 2-3 ” of slab above the soil to stop the roots walking out, pack the base with broken bricks and fill with your fertile, loamy soil.

The tree shown above had rooted into the top of the brick wall and grown over the greenhouse on the far side, to root yet again, continuing on into the kitchen garden beyond. A case for some selective pruning.

Fig trees in the UK will only produce one crop per year in a garden, those fruit that succeed are the embryo figs on the tips of last summers growth. None of the small figs you see at leaf fall are going to develop into the luscious syrupy things you are looking for. At the end of Autumn it is best to remove any fruit bigger then a small pea by shaking the branches.

Pruning is the best aid to getting a crop to ripen properly. You need to create a framework of short branches not unlike spurs on which the fruit can ripen. Sunshine is needed in the middle of the tree to ripen the growing wood and fruit, fig trees have a canopy of huge leaves which will shade out everything.

In the first 2-3 years from planting you need to establish the tree shape as an open goblet or fan, creating a scaffold of branches quite low to the ground. Following on from this you need to start the year with some tip pruning, remove only the outermost growing point leaving behind it the hidden embryo leaf and fruit buds. as the buds grow in spring allow the branch to produce 4- 5 leaves, this can be more or less depending on the speed of growth, then pinch the tip out again. This will stop the fig producing extension growth for a short while, most years this can be done up to twice before the tree stops growing in August. This sounds too simple but in practice it is best kept that way.

Feeding is easiest if done as a combined mulch in early spring,this will keep moisture in at the same time. Be prepared to add some chicken manure if needed or even a liquid feed in the early years and definitely always foliar feed with seaweed every 2-3 weeks, with figs this makes a huge difference, increasing the leaf size by up to 50% – which means bigger, better and juicier Figs.

Water is essential to growing figs , keep it plentiful from May through early summer.Regular weekly drowning is better that a dribble. Figs contain a large amount of water when ripe, high levels of potassium and fibre too.Insufficient water will lead to dry,wooly fruits that most likely will drop prematurely.

Grape Expectations.

Years 1 & 2

I did mention a few weeks ago that I would run through grapevine pruning so here goes;

First you need to work out  what type of vine you have , ‘normal’ dessert grapes for walls and greenhouses can be pruned on a rod and spur system (this I will run through in the next post so as not to confuse). Seedless grapes and those used for wine will benefit from a cane replacement method,often called ‘Guyot‘ pruning.

There is a video of Guyot pruning lower down ( now higher up ) on this page,it will help to watch it ! The method is a lot simpler than it sounds and much more efficient as removal of the older canes also takes away diseases and pests.Save the wood for the next summer barbecue.

The sketch above shows fairly clearly where to prune in yr 1, followed by the 3 vertical rods that grow during the subsequent summer,then you can see where to tie down the 2 outer rods- but prune the centre one to allow re growth the next season.

The sketch below shows how the vine will grow next !

Guyot yr 2 +

In the centre are 3 new replacement rods-all trained vertically this year,2 of these will be laid down and tied in to replace the existing horizontals in autumn.

The outer vertical rods will hold the crop.

The central vertical will be used to create 3 new replacements for the following year as in the top sketch.

I hope this will make the system clear- if not email me and I can edit this to get it right !