The Beginnings Of Pruning

When the grower has made sure of his rod, he may concentrate his attention on the side shoots, commonly spoken of as laterals, for these bear the fruit. It is not wise to encourage strong lateral growth and permit free fruiting until the rod is made. It is better to prune in the laterals when shortening the rod, as already described. But a couple of bunches on the lower laterals the second year will do no harm, and from four to six may be allowed the following season. Now as to the management of the laterals. In the first place, how many should there be on a rod? A safe rule is to select a number of good buds 18 inches apart on one side of the rod, and remove the others. Do the same on the other side, taking care that the buds chosen are about halfway between their opposites. In other words, do not have the laterals on opposite sides of the Vine springing from points close together, but let them come between each other, which will bring them alternately left and right of the rod, about 9 inches apart. These laterals will, of course, develop with the leader, and as it thickens so will they become stronger. They must be pruned each autumn. As a rule they are cut to one eye - that is, only one bud is left on the stump, and it is close to the rod. Sometimes two buds are left, in order to give a choice between two shoots when the following growing season comes. If this is done the best should be allowed to grow, and the others rubbed out while still quite small, as there is no particular gain in having two laterals on young Vines, although after the pruning there are two buds to choose from instead of one.

General Pruning

We have now got our Vines established and in proper bearing order, and as we have gone halfway on the road to pruning we may as well deal with pruning as a whole - I mean on established Vines. Here, of course, we join company with the grower who is not in the position of starting with Vines, but of taking up the management of rods already established. The spur system is the one usually practised; and, although certain modifications are called for under particular circumstances or with special varieties, it may be described as the best in the main. Spur pruning may be learned theoretically in two minutes if a little study is given to Fig. 73. The letters a a show the rod, b the spur, c c c the lateral, d d sublaterals, one pinched at the first leaf, and e a sub-sublateral (if I may be pardoned an awkward phrase), also stopped at the first leaf.

Now for details and comments. In the first place, it will be noticed that there is a considerable space between the rod and the first leaf; in other words, there is a long spur. Long spurs are objectionable, and by close pruning when the Vines are young they may be obviated. Next we come to the first leaf. This should be close to the rod, and have a good bud at its base, to which the lateral may be pruned in the autumn. The leaf is often small or insect-ridden, and the bud is consequently weak. In this case a better bud farther from the rod has to be chosen for pruning to, but this means a long spur. The leaf near the rod should be kept clean and healthy, so that it may thoroughly nourish a fat, plump bud; then we get a short spur and a fine lateral the following year.

Proceeding with our inspection of the lateral, we come to a second leaf and a bunch of fruit. Now, although a bunch often shows at this point it need not necessarily be chosen. It may be of bad shape (see remarks on choosing bunches to come), in which case it should be removed, and another one which will show farther along be chosen. It will be observed that near this point, but on the other side of the lateral, is a side shoot, or sublateral. It would be a mistake to let this grow, for it would rob the bunch. It should be stopped, as shown. Another growth may, and probably will, start from it, as shown above the second d; this should also be stopped at the first leaf. A twirled growth called a tendril is seen below; this is valueless. Near the end of the lateral we see that it is severed. The exact point at which this stopping takes place depends on circumstances. It is a safe rule to stop at the second leaf beyond the bunch; but some growers like to stop at the first, some at the third, and some at the fourth. There is room for a great deal of difference of opinion - and some amount of tomfoolery - in Vine culture. If leaves were divided into sixteenths, there would be found people ready to argue by the hour whether the laterals should be stopped at two leaves and fourteen-sixteenths, or two leaves and fifteen-sixteenths; and they would expect the universe to listen admiringly all the while! Three or four leaves may be left, if there is no danger of the laterals running into those on neighbouring rods. Two axioms ought always to be staring the pruner in the face: (1) never stop (remember I speak broadly, there are technical exceptions) so severely that there are gaps between the leaves; (2) never allow leaves to remain which have not room to spread fully. Big, leathery leaves, nicely covering the glass, but not overlapping each other, represent the condition at which to aim.

With respect to pruning after the fruit is gathered, it is well to do it in two stages. The first, which may come into operation when the leaves begin to change colour, may be at a point near the tendril; the second, which should be performed as soon as the leaves have fallen, should be to the bud at the spur.

Fig. 72. Pruning Grape Vines
Fig. 72. Pruning Grape Vines


A, bend in the Vine stem at the angle of front or side and roof lights - portion below to ground called, stem.

B, rod - all ports of Vine on trellis over one year old and with bearing side branches are called the rod.

C, bearing shoots, termed laterals, showing a, pruning to one bud, thus forming a spur, hence such is called spur pruning; b, bearing shoot pruned to two buds.

D, portion of last season's cane or leader, showing c, point of shortening; d, laterals cut off close to the cane.

Object of pruning: Leader cane - e, strong leader growth in following season; f, four vigorous bearing shoots. Last year's bearing shoots - g, one bearing shoot from as near the base of the rod as possible; h, two bearing shoots in cases of doubtful fruit production when pruned to one bud.

Fig. 73. Vine Laterals When In Growth
Fig. 73. Vine Laterals When In Growth

a, a, rod. d, d, sublaterals stopped.

b, spur. e, secondary sublateral stopped.

c, c, c, laterals.