Grape Vine Pruning – The Next Stage – Lowering The Branch

Summer is a-comin’ in

Loud sing cuckoo!


All you happy gardeners have come back over and over and over again to look at my article about Pruning Grape Vines which I posted earlier. Actually it was my first article.

The May bank holiday is over. A bit of a wash-out this year, really. However, all this rain is very good for the plants. You just have to be a little careful of the “mildiou” which appears when the weather is warm and wet. So far, so good, though.

At this moment we are way past the pruning stage, so I decided to do a follow-up article to the next stage so you can see how the vines progress.

First thing you need to do after the pruning, is to pull off all the dead wood from the vine and make nice little bunches of faggots. They burn very well for winter fires and are very useful for barbecues in the summer.

The vines which have been pruned following the “Guillot” (Guyot) system have a long branch. This branch needs to be lowered onto the bottom wire, so that the spring shoots can sprout upwards. There are 3 wires on a grape vine. One on the same level as the top of the vine, and 2 above which are used to entrap the vines as they get thick and heavy.

(I took a photo of this earlier this month. This gives you an idea as to how the vines are looking at the moment.)

The long branch is quite bendy. Better to do this when the temperature no longer freezes and the Spring frosts are out of the way otherwise the young shoots are susceptible to being frozen and easily knocked off.

If possible, the lowering of the branch should be done after the “Saints de Glace” on or around the 15th May. The 3 days of the “ice saints” are always a lot colder than the other days. (No one puts their window boxes out until after these dates.)

Most of the growers, however, lower the branch beforehand due to the timescale. Once the warm weather starts, the vegetation grows very, very fast.

Lowering the branch is backbreaking. Occupational hazard!

Once this has been done and clipped onto the bottom wire, the little shoots need to be removed from the base of the plant. When they are very young they come off very easily. In fact, they can just be brushed off. These are called “les gourmands”.

Then, the vegetation starts to grow very, very fast.

The vines start to get heavy.

The two upper wires should be placed on the ground until the vines have grown enough to put them back up again thereby entrapping the vines between the two upper wires.

Some grape varieties grow a lot faster than others. The Chardonnay varietal is easily the fastest, followed by the Pinot Noir, the Cabernet Franc, the Côt and the Cabernet Sauvignon varietals – the Touraine reds; then lastly the Sauvignon Blanc.

In France, all this care for the vines is still done by hand!

First published April 2008

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