Kentucky once laid claim to the first vineyard in the United States in the early 1800’s, but sadly, prohibition put an end to wine production and the land was reclaimed by crops like tobacco. Recently, resurgence in interest has sprung up and Kentucky now boasts over 600 acres of active vineyards.
High in antioxidants and tannins, grapes are and ideal heart-healty fruit that’s often used as a remedy agent. Home enthusiasts are also jumping on the vine wagon, cultivating backyard mini-vineyards for personal consumption and for use in making raisins, jellies, juice and homemade wines.
With the desire to plant comes the need to nurture vines, ensuring optimum health and production. The element that is key to success in grape growing is to master the art of pruning.
Pruning grapes is often a matter of trial and error. It’s easy to over-prune and just as easy to under-prune, but failing to prune will always equate to diminished results and eventually out-of-control vines.
The best time to prune grape vines is in the winter months or the dormant season. If you prune in the fall (too early) or the spring (too late,) vines will “bleed” sap from the cuts. The standard recommendation for pruning is to cut off 70 to 80 percent of foliage and dead canes every year.
For a new plant, in the first year of growth, pruning at this percentage will mean cutting the plant back to about 5 inches, salvaging only a few buds. It may seem extreme but this pruning process will help to strengthen the vine.
The first 5 years of vine growth serve to create a sturdy foundation. It’s essential to prune in a timely manner to encourage the plant to produce the best grapes possible. After the first 5 years, pruning continues to ensure the grapes you harvest will continue to be plump, healthy, and vibrant!