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Questions and Answers about Vines

Question:
I have a healthy honeysuckle vine that is a mess! It has some new green and older barky growth. When is it a good time to prune this vine?

Answer:
The time to prune your honeysuckle vine if you are trying to control its growth is late in the spring after it has bloomed. This way you won't miss the beautiful blooms and heavenly scent, and the vine will grow back quicker in the warm weather. If your variety of honeysuckle is not a rampant grower, wait to prune until the vine is dormant in late winter or early spring. This will stimulate more growth the following season. Whenever you prune, be sure to thin out whole branches instead of just cutting off the tips. The key to pruning rapid-growing vines is to prune it on a regular basis: do not wait until it is out of control. If you are planning to change trellises, you may want to cut your honeysuckle vine way back and allow it to start fresh next spring. This should control the amount of older barky growth you currently have on your vine.

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Question:
Any helpful hints on trimming our grape vines?

Answer:
Before discussing how to prune, let's take a look at the reasons for pruning:

  1. Prune grape vines to keep them at a manageable size.
  2. Pruning is done to direct the energy of the vine into producing fruit instead of stems and leaves.
  3. Prune to keep the fruit growing close to the main stem. This way the sap doesn't have to travel far to produce fruit.
  4. In order for fruit to ripen, pruning needs to be done in order to let in sunlight. Unlike most other fruits, grapes do not continue to ripen after being picked from the vine. Thus, it is essential for the grapes to get enough sunlight on the vine to fully ripen.

To reshape an old, overgrown vine, work when it is dormant. This would include anytime after the leaves have dropped off in the fall but before the buds begin to swell in the spring. Make sure the temperature is above freezing when pruning. Choose a main trunk and remove all of the competing-size stems. Next choose two canes on each side (these signify this year's growth) and mark them. These canes will bear the fruit in the current season. Continue to cut back two more canes on each side and leave two buds on each cane. Cut beyond the swollen nodal area where buds come from. The remaining spurs will turn into the bearing canes for the next growing season. Now the fun begins! Prune out everything except the spurs and marked canes. You'll want to shorten the flagged canes to about ten fruit buds each for best productivity. Then tie them loosely to support wires. Now the vines should be in good shape to bear fruit, and you can start a routine of annual pruning to remove the old wood.

When doing your annual pruning, always prune your grape vines when they are dormant. An advantage of waiting until early spring to prune is that you can remove any winter injury at the same time. If the grape vine is basically ornamental, and you only want a few grapes hanging from it for effect, simply prune to keep it from becoming too overgrown. If you want looks and fruit, you will need to plan to prune annually to get rid of all wood over one year old. Each year cut back part of the year-old wood also and leave only enough to cover the support and produce fruit the following year. Throughout the year you will want to restrict vigorous growth by pinching or pruning back surplus shoots as they develop.

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Question:
How do I train Wisteria to look like a tree?

Answer:
Even though you would like your Wisteria vine to grow to look like a tree, you will need to provide support for the main branches because they do become heavy when the branches grow during the year.

Let your young vine grow unpruned until it has reached the size you desire. In the winter, you need to thin out all new growth to the second bud. When spring comes, remove all leafless shoots. You will want to prune side branches to two or three buds and leave the spurs. In the summer remove leafless shoots. Then shorten the lateral branches by half.

For the first three years of growth, train your Wisteria to a support with one truck and keep several evenly spaced main stems. Be careful not to prune too severely at one time. This will cause excessive foliage growth and limit the amount of flowers. Remove low branches to encourage growth and strength of higher branches.

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Question:
I have several neglected raspberry patches with six-foot canes without berries. What is the best way to prune them and turn the mess into bigger berries that are easy to pick?

Answer:
A neglected raspberry patch is not the easiest to deal with. You'll want to dig out suckers and rooted growth. Cut away tangled and old canes. You may be able to salvage some young canes and retrain them to the support. If that's not possible, carefully uproot suckers or layers and use them as new plants.

The most important objective in pruning your raspberry plants is to avoid a bed turning into an impenetrable tangle of thorny canes - which you seem to have, unfortunately. While pruning, be sure to wear a long-sleeved shirt and leather gloves. In the spring, prune out any winterkilled canes at ground level. You'll want to cut back the remaining canes at about chest height. After the harvest, cut back at soil level all the canes that have borne fruit. It should be easy to tell which canes have just fruited because you can see what remains of the little berry clusters after the berries have been picked. If you let the job go or weren't around during the fruiting season, you'll be able to distinguish the old canes because they are darker, with peeling bark. Obviously, you should remove any part of the plant that looks diseased as soon as you spot it.

You don't want your raspberry rows to get any wider than one or two feet. Any wider than that and it's hard to reach to pick the berries. Pull up the suckers that come up between the rows. And thin out the plants within the rows, keeping canes about six inches apart. If you want to support your canes, use posts and horizontal wires to establish a vertical support.

Raspberries bear fruit on biennial canes This means the roots live indefinitely and send up canes each year that generally bear fruit the second season and then die.

It is essential to give your raspberry bushes a constant supply of water while they are growing and especially when they are forming fruit. Use mulch such as salt hay to keep the weeds from working their way into the berry plants'root systems. The mulch will also keep you from having to cultivate the soil. Cultivating may nick the plants'shallow roots. This may promote excess suckers. When it's dry weather, you can increase your yield by laying a soaker hose along the rows. In the early spring, you should top dress with at least a shovel full of compost or rotted manure for every foot of row, or apply a handful of fertilizer such as 10-10-10 to the same area.

Pick your berries only when they are ripe, and don't let them remain on the bush too long. During the harvest, pick at least twice a week and be careful not to squeeze the berries; just pull them off the stem gently.

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Question:
How do I prune some old, neglected grape vines? What kind of pruner do you suggest?

Answer:
Grapes are one of the oldest fruits in cultivation. And your job to bring the vines back to a healthy state is not one of the easiest jobs. Keep in mind that it can be done, but if the vines are badly overgrown, you may need to spread out the work over several years. The goal would be to eventually get the vine back to a single trunk with only four strong, well-paced branches. At that point, you will be able to train it into a manageable system.

Before discussing how to prune, let's take a look at the reasons for pruning:

To reshape the old, overgrown vine, work when it is dormant. This would include anytime after the leaves have dropped off in the fall but before the buds begin to swell in the spring. Make sure the temperature is above freezing when pruning. Choose a main trunk and remove all of the competing-size stems. Next choose two canes on each side (these signify this year's growth) and mark them. These canes will bear the fruit in the current season. Continue to cut back two more canes on each side and leave two buds on each cane. Cut beyond the swollen nodal area where buds come from. The remaining spurs will turn into the bearing canes for the next growing season. Now the fun begins! Prune out everything except the spurs and marked canes. You'll want to shorten the flagged canes to about ten fruit buds each for best productivity. Then tie them loosely to support wires. Now the vines should be in good shape to bear fruit, and you can start a routine of annual pruning to remove the old wood.

When doing your annual pruning, always prune your grape vines when they are dormant. An advantage of waiting until early spring to prune is that you can remove any winter injury at the same time.

If the grape vine is basically ornamental, and you only want a few grapes hanging from it for effect, simply prune to keep it from becoming too overgrown. If you want looks and fruit, you will need to plan to prune annually to get rid of all wood over one year old. Each year cut back part of the year-old wood also and leave only enough to cover the support and produce fruit the following year. Throughout the year you will want to restrict vigorous growth by pinching or pruning back surplus shoots as they develop.

You asked for a recommendation on the appropriate pruners. Scissors -style pruners or anvil-style pruners should work well for you. For the old wood on your grandmother's vine, a sharp pair of anvil-style pruners may be your best bet for cutting through the old, dead wood and would be very useful for a variety of other pruning projects.

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