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Table Grapes as a Result of a Little Extra Care and Pruning

Most hobby vintners are delighted simply to see the foliage on their vine, but it is when the grapes emerge that they get really excited! If, in addition, the grapes taste sweet, one quickly concludes that a very talented gardener must be at work, although sweetness is almost a given if grapes are aloud to take their course. In this section, we disclose some hints so that you can produce particularly large and juicy fruit, so-called "table grapes"!

Fruit Cane Trimming

Shortening the fruit canes back to 5-8 leaves beyond the last bunch can, in some varieties, increase berry size, as long as this is done well and truly before veraison-- the onset of ripening or 'change of colour' (Images 05/06). According to old grape growing tradition, only 1-2 leaves should be kept on each cane beyond the last grape (Images 07/08). However, it is best to leave such radical pruning to experienced vintners or gardeners and only if observations made of the vine over several years have confirmed that there is no risk of frost damage. Occasionally, fruit cane trimming can encourage a strong growth of axillary shoots in July/August, which will increase the foliage management work. Ultimately, the motto "the proof is in the pudding" is valid for every vine, and after a few years it will become evident as to which maintenance work during summer is necessary or useful for producing better fruit.

Bunch Thinning

By thinning bunches to max. 1-2 bunches per cane, the remaining grapes will grow larger and sweeter (Image 04). Those bunches which are furthest away from the woody stem (i.e., at the end of the cane) are cut off, and it is essential to finish this thinning process before veraison, i.e., before the berries start to turn blue or translucent yellow-green.

Additional Watering

In contrast to vineyard grapes for pressing, which should have only small berries with high sugar content and aroma concentration, table grapes can be watered generously (Image 03). Watering is particularly effective when the grapes are about the size of peas: it promotes cell division in the fruit, and these numerous cells will swell up with a lot of water. However, too much water towards the end of summer can cause single berries to split in some varieties.

Image 01: Freshly harvested table grapes
Table grapes from private gardens
Image 02: The fungus-tolerant grape variety "Theresa" at full maturity on a house façade in Leipzig (see also Image 11); the 10-cent piece is for scale.
Table grape varieties
Image 03: During the stage up to "pea size," the final size of the berries is largely determined -- additional watering is now a good idea.
Fruit set, grapevine
Image 06: Detail-- centre of Image 05
Pruning vine stocks
Image 04: Before the berries start to colour and ripen, it is useful to trim off entire bunches. This makes the vine more frost-hardy and the remaining grapes will develop larger and sweeter berries. If bunch thinning happens later, precious sugar already stored will be lost.
Colouring of the grapes
Image 07: Rigorous summer pruning to just 1 leaf (1 "node") beyond the last grape: this leaf, however, had an axillary shoot before pruning, so there are actually 3-4 leaves beyond the last grape.
Summer pruning in vine
Image 05: Grapevine garland, with moderate summer pruning to approx. 5 leaves beyond the last grape.
Vine garland after summer pruning
Image 08: Grapevine garland after rigorous summer pruning- here in winter before pruning