Look Who's Coming to Dinner!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pruned Table Grape Vines Ready for 2012
Yes, yes -- I know. I KNOW. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that this song is just ENTIRELY inappropriate for this blog posting. Well -- too bad. Because -- you're wrong. Because it is quite appropriate.

YES -- I do understand the meaning behind this song. I didn't at first -- but you'll have to excuse me -- I was just a kid prancing across the living room floor during the gilded 1970's "Disco Age" when this tune first hit the airwaves. It had a catchy beat. I liked it. I still like it.

It was my older and much wiser brother who caught me by the arm one day while mid prance with the question of, "you know what this song means, right?"

Thompson Table Grape is "Coming Out" to Play
"No," was my innocent response. Even though we were alone at the time, he whispered in my ear.

"Oh," I replied as my eyes opened somewhat wider. They quickly turned somewhat perplexed when I looked at my brother and asked (innocently, I might add), "what does that mean?"

He again whispered in my ear. "OH, I get it," I responded as my eyeballs nearly popped out of my skull.

I didn't prance much after that to be brutally honest. Hey, it was 1970's Modesto. They didn't teach us much about "alternative anything" back in that day. You were considered "edgy" if you ordered a blueberry snow cone.

It's looking a lot like the year of an early harvest in the Bird Back 40. No -- there's nothing quite ready to harvest just yet -- but give it time. The fruit trees are popping way early. As I write this, the flowering Santa Rosa plum tree is nearly finished, as are the nectarine trees. The Royal Rainier Cherry appears ready to pop open at any moment. And -- as you can tell by the photo to your left -- the table grape vines are indeed, "coming out."

I wasn't expecting this early growth out of the table grape vines to be brutally honest. They didn't pop open like this last year. I knew I was in a bit of trouble when I saw the first hint of green on the Thompson seedless. Hey! I hadn't done my homework! I wasn't ready.

Vines Need a Haircut!
This is what vines look like after a long winter snooze. Much like hair looks in the morning after a good snooze -- the best thing you can say about this picture is: jumbled. The vines were in need of a good haircut. And this is now the all-important third year for grapevine production. This should be the year when I finally see the first nice harvest of home-grown table grapes.

This is provided -- of course -- those damn mockingbirds don't get to the tasty treat first. Did I mention they were back this year? Oh yeah -- much like a bad dream -- this mischievous pair flew back into the Bird Back 40 one afternoon not all that long ago. They'd been gone for a good long time -- but not before stripping the yard of cherry tomatoes, grapes, pluots, peaches and anything else they could get their beaks into.

Mockingbirds have no shame. But they do have an appetite.

But -- back to all things vines. They are clearly popping. Whether I'm ready or not? They are clearly "coming out," or "coming to dinner."

Spur Pruned Thompson Table Grape
There are two ways to prune a table grape vine: Spur pruning and cane pruning. Some vines react better to spur pruning like the Thompson. Others, like the Black Monukka, really don't give a damn. Spur prune or cane prune, the Black Monukka is going to throw out a bunch of tasty table grapes come Hell or high water and that's just the way things are. In my particular case? I practice both styles.

Some vines -- like the Thompson -- just tend to develop nicely formed spurs at the top of the trunk. They jut out at nice angles. When I first started to prune this vine? I had about ten of them to choose from. But I was only going to keep two. One would head in a northerly direction -- while the other would head south.

Table Grape Vines Pruned and Tied
As for the Black Monukka -- it also had nice spur development. But it also had fat canes protruding directly from a well-established trunk. Do you know what new canes that directly protrude from a well-established trunk mean? It means grapes, my friend. It means loads and loads of table grapes. Although I had to prune some of those canes back to the trunk -- not all of them got the pruning treatment. The fattest canes are now tied down to the metal cattle fencing that serves as our "trellis."

Sadly, not all the table grape vines look as good as the Thompson and the Black Monukka. The Crimson Seedless, for example, got a "do over" whack job. What does the scientific term of "do over whack job" mean? It means part of the vine that I had chosen for trunk development a year earlier really hadn't grown all that well. Instead, a vine that developed near the base of the trunk took off and grew a good 15 feet. It was the fattest, most good looking cane that the Crimson Seedless developed last summer.

I wasn't going to lose that good looking vine under any circumstance, so the under-performing, original trunk is now resting comfortably somewhere near the bottom of our green waste can. This means table-grape production on the Crimson will be somewhat limited this year. But -- when it comes right down to it -- that doesn't matter to me. The Crimson now has a nice trunk that should develop a nice spur over the growing season that is now upon us.

That's important.

Strong Trunk Development
In other cases -- I simply did not keep after some of the vines like I should have. I allowed bottom growth to proliferate last summer -- which was a bad move. Bottom growth steals energy from the fruiting canes above. Canes located near the ground are going to get pruned back anyway. So -- they should be pruned almost immediately after they develop. I didn't do that. This is a mistake that resulted in long, strong bottom canes and weaker-than-expected development where I wanted it: at the top of the vine.

But -- that is just one small worry. Nothing is perfect in the world of grapevine development. Some vines are going to be perfect and others - well -- not so much. The eight table grapevines have developed well in the Bird Back 40. Trunk growth is strong. They love the new home. And they provide a nice barrier to the main raised bed vegetable garden. It looks pretty during the summer months.

And when you're in the process of "coming out," the word "pretty" is pretty darned important.

1 comment:

Dree said...

mmm santa rosa plums....

Good luck with all the early flowering. We had FROST yesterday morning. In March! We get frost in Jan and Feb, and I'm sure one of these last 12 years we didn't get any. But MARCH? Good thing I am so far behind on the garden lol. I mean...I knew it was going to happen.