Friday, January 17, 2014

Another question about renovating an old muscadine trellis

I have a question about OLD muscadine/scuppernong vines. We have a piece of property with very old very neglected vines. Some of the poles are rotted at the ground and need to be replaced to even have a chance of getting things back on track. The grape vine base is by these poles. When we dig new holes is there any way to keep from damaging the old vines? Is it better to try to start over from scratch?

You should be able to avoid damaging visible trunks without much trouble, but to be on the safe side maybe wrap some kind of barrier around the bases of the vines to avoid skinning them with your post hole digger or shovel. A section or two of old bicycle tires or some aluminum flashing held on with wire might work.

You will probably damage some roots in the process, but don't worry about it too much. Muscadine grape roots grow out in various directions from the base of the plant. Each plant will have several. They usually grow less than an inch or two under the soil surface. To avoid damaging roots where you dig, excavate the soil with your finger where you intend to dig to discover whether roots are there. If roots are unavoidable, go ahead and dig. The other roots will support the plants.

Here's an alternative. If the majority of posts are rotted, consider not replacing them where they were before. Install them instead between the vines. For example, if your vines are growing 20' apart, install the new posts half way between them. You have less chance of damaging the plants.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Another muscadine arbor renovation project

I have a very old muscadine vine that I'm trying to bring back under management (it's on an overhead,  walk-under arbor).  The problem is that there's multiple, really big trunks coming out of the ground, none of which are really "straight" - they're mostly crooked and inter-twining but all do make it to the top where they branch every where!  I've been trimming the top pretty severely over the last couple winters but with so many trunks in place (easily 5-6), the canopy becomes way too thick and the fruit crop suffers, as a result.  Also, to complicate matters, one of the main, central trunks actually immediately branches a couple times right at the soil level.  Do I just need to "pick one" and clip everything else down to soil level and if so, how to choose?  Also, how do you stop the frenzy of new growth at the base when this is done (particularly drives me nuts!)?  Thank you so much for your time and knowledge!

I think you are correct. As you said, "'pick one' and cut everything else down to soil level." Though all the trunks are crooked, pick the straightest. Yes, there will be a "frenzy of new growth at the base." There's nothing to be done about that but to keep removing the sprouts. The easiest and most effective way is to rub them off with your fingers while they are still very small, young and soft. Wear gloves so you don't rub your skin off in the process. Eventually the sprouts will stop emerging.

You might find it very difficult to untangle and remove the mess on the top of the arbor. Try to retain what you need that is growing from the remaining trunk. But if it becomes impossible to do so, consider cutting the main trunk at the top. Then remove all the old growth from the top of the arbor. It should re-sprout. Choose a few of those vines to form arms radiating outward from the top of the trunk. (I'm assuming the trunk is growing under the center of the arbor.) You will probably have little if any fruit the first year or so, but your arbor will be easier to maintain.

You might not want to prune so radically. If not, I understand completely.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Renovating an old muscadine grape trellis

Q. Mr. Marshall, about 20 years back my mother planted some muscadines on a t-post arbor system. She passed away shortly after, and depressed, we all let the land kinda fall into disrepair. I've been working on bringing the yard back, and I finally got to the back where the muscadines were/are. Evidently a tree fell on the trellis at some point and though her original plantings still live, it is horribly over grown, there are shoots every where and trees that need felling. I found remnants of old fruit and rabbit droppings so I believe they are were still fruiting, but I had to cut down the older ones to get at the t-post and mesh it had snarled around. I left about a foot off the ground. It seems to be okay, but there is one gnarled up sucker that has 3 trunks.  Are these things hardy enough that I can expect them to come back? Are they responsive to hard cutting back? Or do you think I probably lost them?

I'd like to set them on a 1 wire trellis like you have here.
A.I think you would do well to cut the old trunks flush with the ground. It will be easier for you to work around them clearing brush, setting up your new trellis, etc. If the plants are in reasonably good health, they should sprout. After a few weeks of growth, choose the strongest vine to become your new trunk. Remove the others. It will take some doing to keep the others from returning, but stick with it.