Vines, Years 1 to 3 and beyond

You have planted all your vines and now the journey begins.

Your first three years are extremely important, as this is the time when you will develop your chosen training method. For the purposes of simplicity, the following steps are for the Double Goyot system. Remember the length of the main stem is up to you and how you want to manage your vines.

Vine Development years 1 to 3

Year 1

Your vines will begin to break dormancy some time in April or early May, dependant on the weather and their location. This is a very vulnerable time for vines as the newly emerging shoots are easily destroyed by a late frost (in 2011 our vines were decimated by a single frost in early May).

Allow the vine to push as many shoots as it wants until you are sure there will be no more frosts, to be on the safe side I would suggest early June. Then remove all but one shoot, this will be your main growing point for the year. choose one which looks strong and is in a position you feel will grow upwards by its cane. The purpose for this is that you want the vine to put its energy into stem development. At the same time it will be easier to manage than a random sprawl of shoots.

As the shoot pushes upwards, you may see embryo flower buds, remove these carefully when the shoot is about 15 to 20 cm long.  The vine will be severely weakened if you allow flowers and fruit to develop in the first two years. Remember, you need a strong vine with a well developing root system and good healthy leaves.

Manage the shoot by tying in to the cane then on to the wires as the length increases. Water the vines in dry weather, and if you feel they could benefit from some fertiliser, then a liquid feed would be best. Keep an eye on the health of the leaves. It is unlikely you will see Powdery or Downy Mildew in the first year.

At the end of the season you may have a shoot about 1 meter long. Pruning will take place early in the second year

Year 2

I would suggest that you prune your vine in Late February when the worst of the frost is over. Use sharp secateurs as you need a clean-cut about 5cm above the union to the old cutting stock (see diagram). follow the same principles as in year one allowing a single shoot to grow. You will notice this year that the strength of the shoot has greatly improved and by the end of the season, you should have a shoot about a pencil thickness and about 2 meters long.

Pruning will take place earlier in the new year.

Year 3

Pruning, this will vary dependant on the style of Double Goyot you are aiming at. Primarily, prune the shoot down to level you wish the canopy to start from (see diagram). If you want a high canopy, then dependant on the strength of the previous years growth, you may need to repeat year two but only prune back 50% of the intended stem length. This will allow further development of the stems girth.

This is where the paths of development begin to diverge. High canopy, if you have achieved the desired hight then allow only one lateral shoot to develop as it takes the vine greater effort to push nutrients and water to head height.

Lower canopy management, then allow two lateral shoots to develop from the top of the stem. Remove all others that develop during the year. You, at this point, could allow one bunch of grapes to develop per vine so long as the vine is healthy and vigorous.

The two shoots you are developing will become next years frame either as permanent or replacement canes. These Two shoots are either tied down to the first wire (for permanent canes) or allowed to grow straight up for cane replacement. For cane replacement, tie down in winter after pruning

Subsequent years

Build on your new vine structure, the main stem will increase in girth quite rapidly and you may no longer see  the old rooted cutting you planted three years ago, just a continuous stem from ground level. For both methods, the new shoots will appear at each leaf juncture of last years growth. Allow the vine to develop one bunch of grapes per vertical rod (Shoot). For cane replacement, remove any bunches from the two rods nearest the main stem, these will be your next years structure.

Subsequent pruning – cane replacement, in January prune out all growth from the main stem apart from the two rods you removed the grapes from, these will now be tied down to the bottom wire. the process continues in the same manner each year. Permanent structure pruning, cut the vertical rods back to two buds from the lateral structure. one of these buds will develop next years rods along the branch.  We generally allow 4 – 5 rods per side of the main stem.

When you reach years five and six, allow the vine as many bunches of grapes as it can cope with.

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