Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Muscadine Maintenance

Muscadine vines are just about to finish the harvest for the season, but the work for the season is not over yet. There is still maintenance to be done until the vines go completely dormant. Hopefully following these tips will ensure a productive harvest for 2012.

1. This time of year the vines are exhausted from ripening the season's harvest, in years past the accepted watering schedule for vines in the fall was to stop irrigating once the harvest was over. The mind set was to stop watering so the vines would harden off and be prepared for winter. In my opinion this is one of the most harmful things a grower can do. After harvest we want to keep as much stress off the vines as possible, if the weather is warm and dry and we stop irrigating we are putting stress on a vine that has been under pressure from the ripening of the fruit. During the months of October and November we recommend continuing to irrigate at a rate of 8 to 10 gallons of water per week if the weather conditions are warm and dry. If we are getting adequate rainfall then irrigation is not necessary. Once the vines have dropped their leaves then irrigation should not be resumed until the spring of 2012.

2. Removal of fruit.
Any fruit left hanging on the vine that will not be harvested should be removed.  If left on the vine the fruit will rot or mummify (become raisin like) on the vine. This rotting fruit can lead to a build up of disease over the winter and will be present in the spring. If you do not remove the fruit you will have much more disease pressure such as ripe rot or macrophema rot that can affect next years harvest.

Many vines will also have what are called "shot berries", these are grapes that get about as big as a dime and are green and will not ripen on the vine. They are the product of the vine either trying to set a second crop or late blooms being pollinated but do not have enough time allowed for the ripening of the fruit. Any green or shot berries should also be removed this time of year.

3. This is a great time of year to apply pre-emergent herbicides if you choose. Simazine can be used this time of year for control of annual broadleaf weeds and some annual grasses. By applying a fall pre-emergent herbicide it will lower the amount of weeds the following spring. Always follow labeling instructions prior to application.

4. Do not prune too early.  For years we pruned our vines beginning after the Thanksgiving Holiday. But through trial, error and experience we have found the best time to prune muscadine vines is from mid January to mid March. We have found that a vine that has not been pruned can handle colder temperatures or big swing in temperatures better than a vine that has been pruned. In general we experience our coldest temperatures from late December-January, by pruning later we are giving our plants a better chance of coming through the winter with little or no cold weather damage.

5. If you are using the blue x plant shelters and your vines have reached the top wire, now is the ideal time to remove the shelters.

On a planting report we have a beautiful crop of muscadine vines this year, so if you are thinking about adding a few vines or considering planting some acreage now is a good time to begin getting your orders in.  Take advantage of the Early Bird Discount by ordering before November 15th.  The all new 2012 Catalog will be available later today on our website - check it out or request one to be mailed to you.

I hope these tips will ensure an abundant crop for 2012.

Happy Planting!
 Greg Ison