Pruning is a critical process in the production of premium wines. Grapevines are similar to the more commonly known rose bushes that need spring pruning. The goal is to cut back the previous year’s growth, help store carbohydrates, shape the promote high-quality fruit sets and structure the vine to grow a healthy crop but more importantly, a proper canopy to support the fruit in the coming spring and summer months.
Before jumping into this laborious process, please consider knowledge, equipment, and sanitation – all are VERY important. For years we tried to landscaper a variety labor force to prune our vineyard. We soon realized that anyone could prune a vine…but to be successful, the experience of the folks pruning is more important than the task itself. Each vine must be evaluated on its age, vigor (growth patterns), and structure (or balance).
You’ll need several tools as you make your way across the vineyard blocks. First and foremost are the pruners themselves. There are several manufactures of hand pruners. We like the Corona product line. These hand (manual) pruners use a by-pass action to cut the cane, cordon, or trunk. Various sizes are available. We use the 3/4″ on a regular basis though you can find 1/2″ and 1″ sized actions. Prices vary, but $25 – $30 dollars is a reasonable price to pay. They also have a parts department for replacement blades or any other item you may need. Larger pruners (we call loppers) will be needed if you are cutting trunks or cordons larger than 2″ in diameter.
Keeping them clean and sharp! Dipping the pruners in a 10% bleach solution is a great way to keep viruses and bacteria from propagating throughout the vineyard. In our earlier years of vineyard development, I would purchase 4-6 sets for our labor crew – hand them out when they arrive and collect them when they leave. Never let anyone use pruners on your vines without sanitizing them first. As for sharpening, hardware stores sell knife and tool sharpening gadgets. Carrying one in your pocket to keep a fine edge is highly recommended. This will prevent ragged and incomplete cuts on your canes.