Magnesium (Mg) needed for growing excellent grapes

I often receive questions about why the leaves of a grape vine turn yellow long before fall.

Although there are about 20 reasons why these symptoms show on leaves, I think the most common reason for yellowish leaves on a grape vine, is Magnesium (Mg) deficiency.

Not all grape vines show symptoms of Magnesium deficiency, but it is becoming more and more evident in vineyards as we learn more about the importance of Magnesium for optimum grape quality.

What is the function of Magnesium in a grape vine?

Magnesium form part of the chlorophyll molecule.  As you can recall from school, chlorophyll is a green pigment found in most plants, hence the green colour of chlorophyll-containing tissues such as the leaves of your grape vine.

As we all know by now; the leaves (and green parts) of the grape vine is where the carbohydrates are manufactured and transported to the rest of the grape vine.  These carbohydrates are necessary for optimum growth, the immunity of the grape vine and for the proper development of the berries.

The symptoms of Magnesium deficiency:

More often, the symptoms of Magnesium deficiency is overlooked when growing black or red grapes, as white varieties show Magnesium shortages more prominent.

 

 

Deficiency symptoms are seen on the older basal leaves and start with leaf margin yellowing that moves inward. The leaf veins stay green the longest and the areas between become pale green and often creamy white. In red grapes, there may be a reddish colouring that develops between the veins (like the picture below).

 

  If you are not familliar with these terms, have a look at the picture below:

 

 

Not only does Magnesium deficiency affect the leaves and the manufacturing of carbohydrates, but it can also lead to premature fruit drop at harvest (more reason to keep a look out for the symptoms!).

How to correct Magnesium deficiency:

The most common mistake grape growers make, when they diagnose a grape vine with a Magnesium deficiency, is add tons of Magnesium to the soil or foliar.

Over the past 20 years I have been growing grapes, I have found that most of the time, it is not a shortage of Magnesium that cause the problems (symptoms), but more often it is a pH problem or Potassium (K) / Magnesium imbalance.

The problem starts when you are growing grapes on more acid soils.  Magnesium is tied up to the soil particles of acid soils and become more and more unavailable to the grape vines, the lower the pH gets.

Now, the first thing you do before planting your grape vine, is to correct (raise) the pH of these soil, right?  But most of the times, grape growers don’t take into account that by adding elements like lime and Potassium to correct the pH, it can cause even more Magnesium to become unavailable to the plants!

Soils with very high levels of Potassium (K) (many of the organic growers will have this problem), will have little available Magnesium.  Why?  Because Potassium will displace Magnesium cations (Mg ++), making less  Mg anions available to the plant.

In other words, if you have a low pH soil (below 5.5 pH), and you want to raise the pH without binding the Magnesium, you should apply dolomitic lime (high in magnesium) at the rate of two to four tons per acre – BUT before you run out to by some lime, I do recommend you let your soil be analyzed first.  Magnesium soil test values between 100-250 ppm are considered adequate for growing grapes.

If the Magnesium deficiency symptoms are picked up during the growing season (normally between flowering and veraison), a petiole analysis (leave stalk analysis) of the grape vine is the right way to determine what is going on inside the grape vine.  A foliar spray of Magnesium sulphate will temporary correct the issue.  The most common recommendations are 15.0 to 20.0 lb. of magnesium sulfate/100 gal. sprayed as a dilute spray at 200 gal./acre.

 

Then again; get your vineyard soil analyzed do the corrections there, as Epson salt can cause foliar and fruit damage if mixed with other products.

 I hope that this article shed some light on the subject of the importance of Magnesium when growing your grape vines.

 

Have an excellent day my friend!

Danie

www.my-grape-vine.com

 

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Are My Grape Cuttings Still Alive?

Hi friends, I hope you had a wonderful week!

This is now the second post, where we take our 2009 growing season in retrospect and since we had some problems with cuttings we bought last year, I thought it would be a good idea to include this post.

This week I will try to answer a question I so often get from growers all over the world – 

“How do I know if my grape cuttings are still alive?”

In the picture below is a cutting that looks dead;  with a brown, corky bark and no signs of life.  For someone with little or no grape growing experience, this will for sure be the case, but I guarantee you that it is still alive!

How can I be sure?

Take a sharp carpet or pocket-knife and scrape the bark from the cutting to reveal the cambium (the thin layer just beneath the bark). IMPORTANT: DO NOT CUT THE CUTTING, simply scrape off the bark, otherwise you may damage the grape cutting and it will not be your grape vine one day!

 

From the picture below, you can see that the cambium is a dark green colour.  This is your proof that the cutting is still alive. 

 

If the colour of the cambium is a pale green of brown, it means that the cutting is either dying or dead already.

Okay, I hope you find this info helpful and that from now on, you will not wonder if the cuttings you are about to plant is still alive.

Take care and happy grape growing.

Danie

www.my-grape-vine.com

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Training Peter’s Young Grape Vine

Hi friends,

I received quite a few emails about training a young grape vine, so I made a video for you!

This short video, will show you how to train a young grape vine to develop the permanent structure of the vine.  Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

On slower internet connections, this video may take a while to upload.  Please be patient..

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Hi dear grape growing friends!

 

It’s been a while since I updated my blog, but with our grape harvest coming to an end next week, I will have more time to spend with you; and for those who though I abandoned My Grape Vine – “NO, NEVER!

Besides the fact that it has been a year of excellent quality grapes, it’s been quite a difficult harvest time as well.  With grapes weighing much less than the previous year, the total number of cartons we packed is about 9% less than 2008 (some of my friends reported a 19% reduction in cartons).

The biggest problem this year was the sugar/acid ratio in the grapes.  The grapes struggled to reach the correct sugar content for export, some colouring problems and a few diseases that was hard to manage.  All of this made it an interesting but challenging harvest, so say the least!

Over the next couple of weeks, I will take our past growing season in retrospect and share with you some of the things I’ve learned (yes, one never stop learning in this business!).  I hope this will show you what to look out for, what to do and how to prevent it.

 

Managing weeds, ground covers and grass in a vineyard.

 

With the high rainfall in November and Desember, the weeds in our vineyards was a huge headache!  If you ever planted a young grape vine, I am sure you will agree that the biggest enemy of a young grape vine is grass and weeds.  Weed infested vineyards don’t as well as weed-free vineyards.  You need to minimize competition for water and nutrients from weeds and grass growing adjacent to your young grape vines.

When planting your grape vine in your backyard, or into an established lawn, it is recommended that you remove a square patch of sod to keep the weeds away from the roots of the vines.  This will ensure that your young vines don’t need to compete with the grass or weeds and keep the square weed free at all times.

 

Mulches or ground covers:

 

Mulches or ground covers have several advantages. In addition to suppressing weed growth, they also reduce moisture loss, helping to keep the soil evenly moist.

Decomposing mulch will improve the soil structure and put some much-needed nutrients into the soil, making it very good agricultural practice.

 

But using mulches also has disadvantages!

 

For me, the biggest disadvantage of using mulch is the cost and the fact that it pose a fire hazard during the hot, dry summers.  Depending on what type of mulch you use or where you get the mulch, it can also carry unwanted weed seeds, which will germinate and grow in the mulch itself.

In wet years or on poorly drained soils, mulches can hold excessive moisture,

forcing growth that fails to harden off in the fall and resulting in winter

injury or collar rot.

Apply a layer of mulch, at least 4 inches thick to cover all sides of the vine.  If you have a row of vines, cover the whole ridge where most of the roots are to ensure proper moisture and weed management.

When laying out the mulch, keep it away from the stem of the vine because the decomposing material can harm the stem of the vine (especially when you plant new vines); this is called collar rot as mentioned above.

Whether you will be using mulch or not, it is important to keep your vineyard weed-free, especially newly planted grape vines.

 

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The Second Year Of Growing Your Grape Vine

Let’s say you succeeded in getting your new grape vine to reach the top trellis wires the previous season; now what?  What are the goals for the second year of growing a grape vine. 

As mentioned in a previous article, the goal for year one is to establish the grape vine, develop a strong root system and training the grape vine to the trellis wires.  In year two, we will start to construct the framework or cordon of the grape vine.

Constructing the framework of the vine is one of the most important aspects of training a grape vine, as this will be the permanent structure of the vine from which canes and spurs will be pruned.  These canes and spurs will be the fruit bearers for your grape vine.  It will also be the area where you will do most of the pruning in the future and from which you will renew the grape vine as well. 

What is the framework (also known as arms or cordons)?

From the main stem that grows straight up from the ground, in spring, new shoots will develop from buds in the canopy area (where the trellis wires are).  These shoots will laterally cover the trellis wires, and will look like a fishbone; a main vertical structure with laterals developed sideways.

 

 

Your goal is to cover as many of the trellis wires during this growing season, so you will have enough canes to choose from during the pruning season.  These canes will be pruned to arms or cordons; normally 2, 4 or six, depending on the trellis system you use.  As explained in the Complete Grape Growing System, the gable trellis system I construct and use, although a bit more expensive than the well known kniffen systems or two and three wire systems, is a very versatile trellis.  It allows you to spread the shoots evenly among the wires and will exposes the leaves of the vine to the much-needed sunlight much more efficiently.

Developing the framework of the grape vine is an ongoing process during year two and three of growing a grape vine.  After you have covered the wires of the trellis in the second growing season, the leaves will fall off during winter, exposing the canes that needs to be pruned.  If you decided to have say for example 4 arms, then you need to prune these four arms back to 6 to 8 buds and tie it to the trellis wires.

It is important to not leave enough room for shoots to develop from the arms during the upcoming growing season.  Don’t try to construct too many arms on a small canopy;  there should be at least  500 mm or 20 inches between two arms, otherwise the grape vine will get too compact in years to come.  This will allow proper airflow through the vine and will also allow the sunlight to penetrate the vine – important for fruitfulness.

Constructing the lower arms of the grape vine first, before you will start to develop the upper arms.  Both can be developed during the second year of growing your grape vine if your grape vine grew well enough.  However, the bottom arms are your main concern at this stage.  NEVER try to develop the upper arms before the lower arms.  A grape vine tends to neglect basilar growth.

I hope this article gave you some insight on developing the framework during year two of growing a grape vine.

As I always, say:  “Develop a poor structure and you will pay the price!”

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Should I prune back my grape vine?

Hi there friends,

I would like to share this email I received yesterday with you.  Maybe you have the same situation Leo has.

Here is the mail.

———-

Danie,

I have a question for you to see if I’m on the right track.

My grapevine didn’t grow very well last year, but thanks to your guide I ordered this winter, I now know what went wrong / what I did wrong.  Anyway, my grapevine is halfway up the training string, about 2 feet from the bottom wire of the trellis and the buds are swollen and show signs of bud break. 

I know your guide clearly says to prune back if you didn’t achieve the first year’s goal, but should I really prune back to the ground and start all over again?

Thanks for all your support and well done – your program is just awesome!

Leo

———-

First of all, thanks Leo for the kind words…

This is quite a common question asked by new vineyard owners and should be, because this is where so many go wrong!

If you didn’t succeed with getting your young grape vine to at least the bottom wire of the trellis during the first year, then YES, it is best to prune back and start over again.  Start by looking for the reason why your grape vines didn’t do that well and eliminate that problem as quickly as possible.

Second, prune the grape vine back to three buds above the graft union (if it is grafted vines off course :-) ) and 3 to 5 buds for non-grafted vines.  New shoots will develop from those buds and you then need to choose one or two to train as the stem of your grape vine.

THERE IS ONE EXCEPTION THOUGH:

The picture above is a young vine in one of my vineyards that came loose from the training string and the wind twisted it and it broke off about halfway up the training string (where the arrow 1 is). 

The difference between this vine and Leo’s vine is that it was a strong growing grape vine, that would have reached the top wire of the trellis easily.  Now the question is; should you prune back this vine as well.

You can clearly see all the lateral shoots (arrow 2), I removed from the vine.  In other words, it is a strong vine.  If this is your situation you don’t need to prune back all the way to the ground.  Simply train a new training string from where the vine broke.  I normally consult people to look at the diameter of the vine – if it is as thick as a pencil or more, then your vine is strong enough to be trained from half way up the training string.  Or at least prune it back to where it is the diameter of a pencil.

The key is to develop a strong root system first, then go ahead and start constructing the frame work or cordon.

So Leo, in your case I would prune back the vine to 3 buds and start over again – at least this time you know what to do and not make the same mistakes as the previous growing season!

Good luck and I hope this article gave you some insight the whether you should prune back your grape vine or not.

Have a lovely weekend

Danie

www.my-grape-vine.com

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Growing Grapes: Your first year’s goal

Growing Grapes:

Learn the art of growing grapes the first yearWhen you are growing grapes in the northern hemisphere, it will soon be spring and your grape vine will show signs of life after the cold winter.  Hundreds of new grape growers will start a vineyard of their own, with great anticipation of having their own grapes one day.

This is great, as there is absolutely no other plant that responds more to personal care than a grape vine; just ask those who successfully started growing grapes the past growing season.

Unfortunately, there will also be those who will miserably fail as well.  Those who think that by sticking a cutting into the soil is enough to ensure a productive grape vine and to succeed with growing grapes  – think again.  Although growing grapes is not that hard, you need to have a set of well-planned goals for the first growing season.

With this article, I want to give you some ideas on growing grapes and what you should strive to achieve during the first growing season.  This will help you plan ahead and set your goals for the upcoming growing season.

Where you will be growing grapes?

Except for choosing the correct variety, the location where you will plant your grape vines are probably the most important step to becoming a successful grape grower.  I see so many well prepared soils, great looking trellises and good looking cuttings, planted in a spot where a grape vine will for sure not become a productive plant.


Then what is the perfect site for growing grapes?  Let’s start by looking at the soil.  

PH:

Fortunately a grape vine can be grown on a relatively wide range of pH.  The ideal pH for growing grapes is slightly acidulous;  between 6.0 and 7.2, although you can go as low as 5,5 and as high as 7.8.  But why is the pH so important to us?

When the pH of your soil is below 5, one major negative thing happens inside the soil.  Clay particles in the soil will start to dissolve and aluminum (Al) ions will be released.  These Al-ions prevent much needed magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) cations from binding to the soil and will be inaccessible to the growing grapes.  In other words, what I’m trying to tell you, is to take a soil sample or two and let it be analyzed and do correctional fertilization before your start growing grapes.

Soil structure and texture for growing grapes:

The structure of a soil is The soil structure is the relevant position of individual soil, silt and clay particles to each other and include the pores these individual particles forms as well.  Soil structure has a major influence on water and air movement, biological activity and root growth.  Grapes do best on deep, well drained soils.

The soil texture is the relative proportion of clay, silt and sand particles in the soil.  Clay particles are very small, and binds to each other, making the soil impenetrable for roots, air and water.  These very clayish soils tends to compact with irrigation, so keep in mind to ad lots of organic matter to the soil.

Choose a sunny spot for your grape vines:

Grape vines need lots of sun for it to be productive – period!  Plant your grape vine in spot where it will have direct sunlight for at least have 80% of the day.  Without enough sunlight, the buds on the grape vine will become unfruitful and will not bear any fruit. 

To give you an example; just next to my house, I have a 1.3 hectare Crimson Seedless vineyard – a beautiful vineyard with a good yield as well.  My wife has got a lovely garden and I also love trees, but right next to the vineyard, stands an old tree that over shades about 5 vines in the vineyard.  This past growing season, these vines only produced 5 bunches per vine, as to the rest of the vineyard that produces 16 to 20 bunches per vine.

Luckily there are 2000 more vines in the vineyard that can produce grapes, so I just leave the tree as it is, BUT what if you only had those 5 grape vines?  See where I’m heading?  When growing grapes, a sunny spot is imperative, so keep those trees away from your grape vines!

Growing Grapes: Preparing the soil and planting hole

Now, I’m not going to go into this too much, as I’ve written an article about this some time ago, but don’t underestimate the importance of properly preparing the planting hole when growing grapesThis is where your grape vine will spend the rest of it’s life.  So do take care when planting your grape vine.

Achieve this during the first year of growing grapes and you are well on your way

to becoming a great grape grower!  :-)

(yes, it is possible!)

growing grapes

 

Growing Grapes: Training your grape vine:

Now this is where so many fail.  Your goal for the first year of growing grapes should be to get the grape vine on the trellis wires as quickly as possible.  Achieving this, will ensure that you can start developing the cordon or structure of the grape vine as soon as possible.

The sooner your structure is developed, the sooner you will have a grape crop to share with your friends and family.

DO NOT ALLOW A ONE-YEAR-OLD GRAPE VINE TO PRODUCE GRAPES!

If you allow a young vine to have grapes, you will only set back the much needed growth and your grape vine will not be strong enough to start developing the structure of the vine in year two.  A one-year-old grape vine will not produce usable grapes anyway – so remove all grapes during year one.

Growing Grapes: Diseases and weeds:

The young grape vine’s biggest enemy are weeds and diseases like powdery mildew and downy mildew.  Get rid of all weeds BEFORE planting the grape vine; this will make chemical weed control much easier.  Follow a 10 day spray program to prevent diseases attacking your young vine.  Right, I hope this growing grapes article will put you on the right track.

Danie

www.my-grape-vine.com

Remember:  When growing grapes, it’s always good to plan ahead and think of what your grape vine will look like in about 5 years from now – then make your decisions.

 

 

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growing grapes

 

The Grape Guy’s Birthday Celebration

Hi everyone,

Hope you are doing well.  What a great weekend this will be? 

  • On Thursday I celebrated my birthday,
  • yesterday was Friday the 13th (not so lucky for some!)
  • and today is Valentine’s day 

I just want to say thanks for reading my blog. 

For those who are members of the Complete Grape Growing System, I’ve added another bonus to your membership page.

When you log into your membership page at http://www.my-grape-vine.com/members, under the “More Bonus Info” link, you will notice that I have added a FREE e-book called “The Good Wine Guide” that you can download and enjoy.

Here is a screenshot or the page.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend my friend.

Take care

Danie

Niel and Suzana’s Grape Vines

As promised, although a bit later than anticipated, here it is:  Niel and Suzana’s grape vines.

Niel’s Grape Vine:

Niel is from New Zealand and is a member of the Complete Grape Growing System.  A few weeks ago, he send this email:

Hi Danie
Awesome book!
My section is very narrow so your favourite way to grow grapes , doesn’t suit my property. So I have grown on four wire structure my fence you see in the pictures run north facing so I get all day sun . I have 3 varieties planted so far, two modern varieties only 2 year from planting they are developing nicely. But the variety I’m going to show you is very old not sure what it is as I planted it from a cutting. This is now its 3 year from planting.
Questions:
1. I have this vine growing really well from the centre of the vine it extends 7mt in each direction is this too far to produce consistent bunches of grapes ?
2. Because this is a cutting, do the bunches look OK , they don’t look plentiful with grapes , because this vine is only 3 years is it still too young to produce larger bunches ?
Just need some advice to check I’m on the right track or will I need to graphed on some new varieties to plant and use current plant as root stock this winter  ?. Thanks Danie
Regards

First of all I didn’t upload all the pictures he send me, it’s great looking grape vine Niel got there, especially if you take into consideration that it is only 3 years old – well done!

I can see how he adapted the info from the grape growing system, to suite his specific needs and to develop the framework of his grape vine.  This is the beauty of the system isn’t it?  It shows you the basics of how it’s done, that will trigger your own creativity for developing ANY grape vine, and then take you one step further into becoming a successful grape grower.

To get to Niel’s questions:

  • 7 meters (about 23 feet) to each side is quite a long stretch I must admit.  Why?  When you start out as new grape growers, you should always keep in mind what the vine will look like in 20 years’ time.  Although I think Niel will be fine with the trellis he constructed, this is a mistake so many grape growers make; allowing too little space for a properly developed grape vine.

Another problem with growing a grape vine, the size of what Niel is doing in his backyard, is what we grape growers call “die back”.  A grape vine always tends to produce better/more shoots at the end of the structure or cordon – in other words, in Niel’s case, from about 3 to 7 meters.

When the vines are still young, you will most probably not see symptoms of “die back”, but as the vines grow older, and the frame work of the vine gets bigger and more woody, Niel may experience “die back” of canes and buds near the stem of the vine.

This isn’t ideal, because you should always have the option renewing a arm or cordon, in case something happen to it (cold damage, or diseases ect.).  There should be canes and renewal spurs of good quality, close to the main stem of the grape vine

My advice to Niel and if you have a similar situation, is to planting a few more vines so you can keep the structure of the vine closer to the main stem of the grape vine.

  • Will Niel’s vine produce bigger and more grapes in the future?  Well, I certainly hope so, though I can’t see any reason why not!  Remember, a three year old grape vine is still considered a young vine, so don’t allow the grape vine to produce a full crop at this age.  I know the temptation is big to have a full crop as quickly as possible, but your focus, the first couple years, should be to develop a well balanced grape vine, with a structure that can support a full crop.

Niel, thanks for sharing your pictures with us.  You’ve done a great job so far, keep it up!

Suzana’s grape vine:

Suzana if from Torrence, USA, and has been a member of My Grape Vine since who knows when?  She and her husband, together with a team of really enthusiastic grape growers are taking care of a project to reestablish a vineyard at their church.

I just love getting emails from Suzana (she even send me a Christmas card this year!).  Last week I received a call on my cellular phone from an “unknown number”.  Guess what?  On the other end of the line was Suzana!  Although the connection wasn’t that good, we managed to have a very pleasant conversation and we could share some great grape growing info – it was really a pleasure speaking to this kind lady.

OK, here’s a couple of pictures from their project and some emails she send me.  I’ll elaborate a bit more at the end of this post.

Enjoy this lovely project!!

11 Dec ’07
I’m excited to have subscribed to your Program!
 
We,  here at xxxxxxxxx Church , are approaching the time when we need to take our cuttings from Dorothy’s grapevines to have the vineyard start again on church property, after some 40 years.
 
How dormant do the vines need to be to take the cuttings?  Do I wait until all leaves have fallen?  I’ve enclosed 2 pictures taken yesterday.  Some leaves are still green, others are yellow & orange.  The vines on the top of the trellis have less leaves.  How will I know when it’s time to prune and take our cuttings?  Also, the vines are all tangled up.
 
Thank you for your guidance.
 
Suzana

 

 

  

 

 

 

Hi, Danie,
 
I wanted to share with you photos of our “nursery”.  We chose to transplant our sprouted cuttings in May from the collective pots into individual pots instead of a propagation bed, in order to make things easier at the time we plant into the ground with the modified gable trellis for support.  It’s been an ongoing effort to keep those gregarious tendrils apart…  the taller stakes are 6′ tall.
I welcome any and all comments you may have.  You are an inspiration — I’m so glad I landed on your website when I was first doing my research!
Blessings, Suzana

This is awesome results.  I’m so proud of you guys.  Anyway, planting the vines in pots is a good idea if you work on a small scale.  If you plan a bigger vineyard, go for planting bags or bare root cuttings.  Moving around 600 pots per acre is quite a job!

15 Sep ’08

Hi, Danie,

The vines are in!  Hallelujah!   The holes are 3 feet apart.  There is one common wire at the bottom of the trellis V, then 4 wires on each side spaced 8 1/2 inches apart.  We will be using your alternative method for this gable trellis to train our vines.  Only a couple of the 34 vines have not quite reached the bottom wire.

Blessings, Suzana

 

 

 

The vines went dormant (most of them, as it seems to have been a relatively mild winter where she live). And this is how she pruned them.

One very important thing to remember (and this is what we spoke about on the phone as well), is to not try to develop the frame work of the vine from lateral canes if they are to weak.  Rather prune the vine back to just above the wire where you want the cordon to be and develop it the next growing season.

Suzana did a great job here

 

 

 

Another question that came up:  “When should I prune back a young grape vine to the ground?”

I explained to Suzana, that if you successfully trained the grape vine and followed the training methods I teach closely, the chances of needing to pruning way back to the ground is almost zero.

You should be able to develop at least one shoot to reach the top cordon wire.

If your young grape vine didn’t grow well during the past growing season, and didn’t come close to the support wires, most of the times it is better to prune the young vine back to 3 buds and start over the next growing season.

I hope these pictures and emails gave you some ideas on what can be done if you follow sound grape vine training methods.

Would you also like to become as successful as Niel and Suzana?  Then join the Complete Grape Growing System Right now for just $29.  If you are outside the US, you can even pay in your own currency.

 Thanks for reading and happy grape growing my friend.

Danie

www.my-grape-vine.com

The annual lifecycle of a grape vine

In this article, I want to share with you the importance of understanding the annual lifecycle of the grape vine.  Often new grape growers make the mistake of thinking that if they prune their grape vines during the dormant season, they have done enough to ensure their grape growing success. 

Off course, pruning a grape vine is important, don’t get me wrong, but there’s so much more to growing grapes, than simply just pruning.

 

A single manipulation, like pruning, is only part of the bigger picture when it comes to growing grapes but to be a successful grape grower, you need to know what to do during each and every stage of the annual lifecycle of the grape vine.  Leaving out only one important manipulation, like leaf pulling as explained in a previous post, can result in having poor quality grapes or even no grapes at all.

 

The annual lifecycle of a grape vine:

 

The first signs of bud break in spring. 

 

This time of the season, the shoots that develop, are very susceptible to frost damage so you need to protect it from frost damage.  It is also the best time to plant your new grape vines.

 

Depending on your climate, the first leaves will open about 4 weeks after bud break.  Your grape vines are still very susceptible to frost damage, so protect them.  With some very fruitful varieties, the first grapes will be visible as well.  This is the time when the grape vine starts building up energy through the process of photosynthesis.

 

When the shoots are about 5 to 6 inches in length, your need to spray for powdery mildew.  Protect the surface of the small leaves from diseases to maximize photosynthesis.  And as soon as the flower clusters developed, it is imperative that you keep your vine fungus free.

 

Now it’s time to do suckering (removing of unnecessary shoots) and also to remove water shoots to ensure all energy goes into forming and developing the flower clusters.  On some very fruitful varieties, you can start reducing the crop by removing flower clusters before they start flowering.  Your grape vine’s shoots should be well developed by this stage.

 

Flowering:

 

About 10 weeks after bud break, depending on your climate and variety, the first flower clusters will start to flower.  Flowering or blooming is the stage where the pollination and fertilization of the grape vine takes place,to develop the grape berries. 

 

While the grape vine is flowering, the ideal climate is mild, wind-free days with no rain.  Unwanted climate conditions (rain, too hot or too cold days, and lots of wind), can prevent proper pollination and could result in too compact bunches or too loose bunches with only a small number of berries per bunch

 

Grape vines are very susceptible to powdery and downy mildew during this stage, so keep your spray program up to date.

 

Fruit set:

 

Just after flowering, the grape vine goes through a stage we call fruit set.  During this stage, all the fertilized flowers will start to develop into berries and those that didn’t, will fall off.  The conditions during flowering will greatly determine how many berries will develop and how many not.

During fruit set, it is critical that you grape vines don’t dry out too much as this is the stage where cell division takes place.  The more cells that will develop, the more there are to enlarge (next stage) and the bigger berries you grape vines will bear.

 

Cell enlargement:

 

During this stage the cells that developed in the previous stage (fruit set), will increase in size and it is a crucial time of the year for developing larger berries.  Your grape vines will start to use more water as the berries increase in size.

 

Once the berries are the size of a pea, the thinning out of bunches by hand or chemically will ensure loose bunches, with larger berries and less diseases.  You absolutely must ensure that your grape vines are not water stressed during this stage.

 

Some varieties are very susceptible to sunburn or scald and most of the damage to these varieties takes place during cell enlargement.  Maintaining a closed canopy will help prevent sunburn.

 

Colouring (Veraison):

 

Veraison is when the berries start to soften and turn colour and signal the beginning of the ripening process.  Normally takes place around 40-50 days after fruit set.  The early stages of veraison is where you will notice a dramatic increase in berry size. 

 

In the Northern Hemisphere, this is around the end of the July into August and between the end of November into January for the Southern Hemisphere.  During this stage the colours of the grape take form-red/black or yellow/green depending on the grape varieties. This colour changing is due to the chlorophyll in the berry skin being replaced by anthocyanins (red wine grapes) and carotenoids (white wine grapes). In a process known as engustment, the berries start to soften as they build up sugars.

 

Some varieties tends to have poor colour, so opening up the canopy and removing leaves around the bunches, will help colour development. 

 

Berry maturity:

 

Many home growers make the mistake of thinking the grapes are ready for harvest when it start

to colour. The colouring of the skin is a good indication that the grapes are nearly ripe enough

to harvest, but not ready yet.

 

The ripeness of grapes is measured in Degrees Brix (symbol °Bx).  This is a measurement of the mass ratio of dissolved sugar to water in a liquid.   A 25 °Bx solution is 25% (w/w), with 25 grams of sugar per 100 grams of solution. Or, to put it another way, there are 25 grams of sucrose sugar and 75 grams of water in the 100 grams of solution.

 

There is an instrument called a refractometer, that measures the sugar levels of the juice squeezed from a few berries. This instrument unfortunately is quite expensive and only if you plan to make your own wine, I would recommend buying one.

 

Dormancy:

 

It should be close to winter now, and the leaves of the grape vine will start to change colour and fall off and your grape vine will go into rest (dormancy).  During this time of the year, the grape vine accumulates carbohydrates in the canes, trunk and roots of the vine for the upcoming growing season.

 

This is the time of the year when the grape vines need to be pruned.  In colder climates, it is best to wait until early spring, before you prune the grape vine.

Remember my friend, for you to be a succesfull grape grower, you need to know what to do in every stage of the development of the grape vine.  Without this, you will have little or no chance of succeeding!

If you need in-depth, but very practical and easy-to-understand guidance, I recommend you join us as a member of the Complete Grape Growing System.  It won’t cost you an arm or a leg!  In fact, it will cost you less than a staked, 5 gallon Flame Seedless grape vine sold on Amazon!

To become a member right now for just $29, just click on the button below.  If you are outside the US, you can even pay in your own currency.

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