People ask us this time of year if we are glad that there's nothing to do now in the vineyard. While it is true that we have completed harvest, and we are free to take a break if we want, it is not true that there is nothing to do in the vineyard! One of our big tasks is pruning the plants back for spring growth. We start pruning as soon as the leaves fall--any sooner, and we would have trouble seeing the vine properly and might cut something we should not.
Muscadines typically are very prolific in their growth each season. Basically, it's helpful to remember that we are training a vine to become more like a tree with a trunk and cordons, like limbs, that will support vigorous vine growth for maximum production and ease of harvesting. We start pruning by walking through the vineyard, making sure the vines are tied on properly. We also look for major structural issues, such as any plant injury that might require special attention. On older plants, we do a machine pruning, to get the bulk of the pruning accomplished, then go back through to hand prune. We check for girdling and remove the offending tendrils which otherwise would choke the vine.
On younger vines, we exclusively hand prune and train, a task we particularly enjoy. The training of the young muscadines and the pruning of the older are much like working with a three dimensional maze. If you like mazes like we do, you can understand the fun of the work!
All this is to say that our pruning is in full swing. We took some breaks during the holidays to be with family and friends, and some frigid weather, ice, and rain have delayed us. It is winter, after all, but the pruning is a constant reminder that soon enough the active growing season will return.