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Danelle Cutting: Lesson one in pruning – muscadines

As promised last week, this is the first pruning article for February. This article will concentrate on pruning muscadines.

Just to make sure everyone is on the same page, I feel obligated to clear up some common misperceptions. Many people think that the dark/black colored grapes are muscadines and that the bronze/white colored grapes are scuppernongs. This is false. Muscadines come in both black and bronze varieties. scuppernong is a very old bronze variety. So, for this article, pruning muscadines covers both bronze and black varieties.

Usually, homeowners start growing their muscadines using the double curtain/double wire method. This means that once you have planted your muscadines, you will prune them to one stem and cut the stem to about three buds.

Once you have new growth, you will select the strongest, most vigorous of the shoots and remove the others. Then, you will train the vine to reach up to the first wire. When the vine is right below the first wire, you will cut the tip to encourage lateral buds.

When you receive growth from the lateral buds, you will train them to wrap around the first wire. These two shoots are called cordons/arms. This happens within the first growing season. You will complete the second wire in the next growing season.

Once you have your double curtain system established, pruning is much more efficient. The double curtain helps increase air flow, light and ease of harvest. After you have two growing seasons and you are in the dormant part of the year (February or early March), you will remove everything that is dead, diseased or damaged. If anything is diseased, you should clean your pruning shears with liquid Lysol or a bleach/water solution between every cut. Your shears should be dry before you make your next cut.

If you wait until March, sometimes the sap will start to flow from the cuts. Muscadines are very resilient, so if you are cutting before the buds have started to swell, you should be okay. However, it is preferable to heavy prune in February and into early March.

During the dormant season, you should also prune suckers coming from the ground, any vines below the first wire, and between your first and second set of cordons. On your cordons, you will prune fruiting spurs to two to three buds, with at least a fist length between each spur. This provides a better quality fruit by increasing sunlight exposure and reducing disease by increasing air flow.

I receive many calls from homeowners who have old home sites that used an arbor like system to grow muscadines. These are very difficult to prune, and it is usually best to start over than to figure out how to manage the arbor system.

Pruning muscadines can be fairly simple, but you have to remember that muscadines can grow 20 feet in one year. That can greatly reduce sunlight exposure.

If you would like more information on growing and pruning muscadines, contact your local Cooperative Extension Agent, Danelle Cutting, at 704-216-8970, or visit these websites:

Muscadine grapes in the home garden: http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/muscadine-grapes-in-the-home-garden/

Muscadine grape production (great line images for pruning): http://www.smallfruits.org/Muscadines/production/MuscadineGuide2003.pdf

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