We have had a nice cold winter here on the High Plains of Texas for the grape vines to sleep through and to kill off harmful insects. But now it is spring! Time for pruning in the vineyards.
Here is one of our vineyards last February. Sleeping away.
Now in April, some varieties such as the Viognier are just beginning to bud out which is exactly what we want them to look like because we don’t really want the vines to fully bud out till later in April. There may be more freezing weather in April. Hopefully we will not have any freezing weather in May like we did last year. But we can prepare for the freezing weather that we can normally expect on the High Plains in April by delaying our pruning and thus delaying bud break.
The touches of spring are encouraging though. But the whole process of pruning takes effort and work and quite a few helpers.
The vines start out rather scraggly looking.
We run a mechanical pruner through the rows to do the major rough pruning before workers go through to do the fine tuning pruning; you can see more of that process here. Then the vines are pruned using the spur pruning method as these vines show.
Maybe you can see the “T” shape of the spur pruning a little better in this photo.
This year we are pruning some of our vines using the cane pruning method. We are trying this on all of our Vermentino and two-thirds of our Viognier vines. For this method workers go through the rows making two main cuts to get rid of the old cordons and then selecting two to four new canes to tie down later and eliminating the others.
These vines were spur pruned last year but are being cane pruned this year. The workers tried to put the cut vines neatly in the center of the row. Usually with either type of pruning there are cut vines cluttering the base of the vines. To clean this up, we send a tractor through the rows to sweep the old vines into the middle of the row and then flail shred them to chop them up.
Here you can see the big yellow sweepers in front and the red flail shredder in back of the tractor. You can also see my fourteen year old son driving the tractor and cleaning up the fields.
We prune our different varieties in approximately the reverse order that we think they will bud out naturally. Which means that early budding Viognier is the last to be pruned. But we should be finishing even the Viognier by the end of this week or so.
Here is a vine that has been reduced to two spurs which are arched and then tied down using the can pruning method.
Much work is going on but the touches of spring are encouraging us that is will be a great year for Texas wine grapes.