Pruning the Muscadine Grape Vine
Muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia) are sweet and juicy— excellent for making wine or preserves. The vine is highly resistant to pests and diseases, and the fruit has strong antioxidant effects as well as other health benefits.
Plant the grape vines in late winter or early spring, about 10 feet apart, in a hole big enough to let roots spread out naturally. A one or two-wire vertical trellis system that consists of 9 or 11-gauge smooth, galvanized wire stretched horizontally at least 4 ft above the ground is an effective way to grow grapes. January or February is the best time for pruning.
The newly planted vine should be pruned back to just one stem bearing two or three buds. When the shoots that grow from this cane are 6 to 10 inches long, prune off all shoots except one (the most vigorous). This shoot, which will grow vertically until it reaches the trellis wire, will become the permanent main trunk of the vine.
The main shoot should be tied gently to a bamboo or tomato stake several times during the first season (or the shoot can be tied to the upper wire with a string). The main shoot will develop faster if any developing side shoots are pinched back to the leaf growing on the main shoot. When the main shoot reaches the top of the trellis, cut off the tip of the shoot at a height just above the wire.
In spring, select two vigorous developing shoots to be the main canes running along the wire in each direction, and remove all other shoots. Gently tie the two main canes to the wire as they lengthen. When winter comes, remove any competing shoots growing up from these canes and shorten the main canes so that they extend just 5 ft from the main trunk. In winter of the following year, prune growing shoots back so that each is left with two buds (“fruiting spurs”). These growing shoots should be spaced 3 to 8 in apart, so prune back ones growing closer than that. The shoots that grow from these spurs usually bear two flower clusters that will develop into fruit clusters by summer.
With good yearly pruning and a well-designed trellis, a muscadine grape vine may produce fruit for thirty years or more.
The information for this article is given courtesy of the Beaufort County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers. If you have a gardening question, please contact the Beaufort Extension Master Gardener HOTLINE at 946-0111 or email your question to: email@example.com
Gardening Calendar for February
- Spot spray wild onions with the recommended herbicide.
- Spray for spurweed and other winter annual broadleaf weeds at the end of this month, especially if it’s warm. Read the label before using.
- Spread ashes from the fireplace around gardens and bulb beds where soil pH is below 6.0. Avoid acid-loving plants. (3 lbs of ash = 1 lb of limestone)
- Shade trees can be fertilized.
- Emerging spring flowering bulbs can be fertilized.
- Asparagus crowns can be planted at this time.
- Early February, sow beets, carrots, peas, lettuce, mustard, radish, spinach, Irish potatoes, and turnips.
- Consider planting pansies in your salad garden for added color.
- New grape vines and fruit trees can be planted in the landscape at this time.
- Hardwood cuttings of many landscape plants like forsythia (yellow bells), flowering quince, weigela, crape myrtle, juniper, spirea, and hydrangea can be taken this month.
- Perennials like daylily and Shasta daisy can be divided at this time if the ground is dry enough.
- Prune grape vines.
- Ornamental grasses like liriope and pampas grass should be trimmed.
- Weeds or unnecessary trees should be removed from the landscape.
- Peach and nectarine trees need to be sprayed with a fungicide to prevent leaf curl.
- Spray all fruit trees with dormant oil to eliminate some insects. This is especially important if the tree has just been pruned.
- Now is a good time to fix or clean old birdhouses and put up new ones.
- Develop a gardening plan for your landscape so you can start preparing for the spring.
- Consider ordering new varieties along with tried-and-true varieties to see how they compare. Experimenting with varieties is fun and has virtually no ill effects.
Don’t forget to order flowers for your sweetheart or else your garden will be the least of your worries—Happy Valentine’s Day!
Submitted by Jacob Searcy, Extension Agent, Agriculture, firstname.lastname@example.org