Pruning in late winter will lead to more scuppernongs

Posted: Sunday, March 08, 2009

Harlem resident Tom Blalock has been around scuppernong vines a long time, but just recently started growing them at home.

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"I've been growing them for four or five years," said Blalock. "But I've been around them all my life growing up in South Georgia. They are sort of a way of life there."

Blalock likes that the vines require minimal care. One of the few things he tends to is pruning the vines back in late winter so they are ready for growth and production in the spring.

Using wire strung on posts, Blalock trains the vines to grow up and out, like outstretched arms.

"You grow the vines straight up and trim them almost like a tree," he said. "Grapes will normally grow well only on new growth."

Everything that has grown from the main stem is trimmed back, Blalock said.

"Basically, you are back to where you came from," he said, adding that each year 7 to 10 feet of vine is removed in the pruning process. "It's like a huge head of hair coming off of a single strand."

Trimming back to the main stem and leaving a spur 2 to 4 inches long ensures that there will be a good supply of scuppernongs.

"Who would have thought you could trim that much back and still have a successful crop?" asked Blalock.

Pruning of scuppernong vines can take place any time after the first of the year, but needs to be done before budding starts, he said. The optimal time for pruning is mid to late March.

"The older vines produce more," said Blalock, adding that he gets a couple of bushels of grapes off of his vines.

Among the varieties of scuppernongs that Blalock grows are the Fry -- a golden-colored grape that is probably the most common and most prolific -- and another darker variety with grapes an inch or more in diameter.

Blalock said he tried making wine from the grapes many years ago and found the task time-consuming. These days, he and his wife use the grapes for making jelly and sharing with friends.



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