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Vineyard Training

The highly effective vineyard training techniques are also applicable for small rows of vines in the garden, for fences, and for freestanding espaliers. Especially noteworthy about vineyard training is the fact that usually the vines are trained with short trunks; that is, no elaborate trunk/stem framework is developed as is common in other training techniques.

Background

In earlier times, every wine-growing region had its own typical training techniques. Vines were either left to grow as shrubs without any growth supports, or trellised to wooden frames in the vineyard. Around 1900, the "Rhine-Hessian Training" became firmly established, a post and wire system using several horizontal parallel wires superimposed upon each other ("wire frame").

Spatial Requirements

The vines are arranged in rows with the plants usually spaced about 1.5m apart (for 2 canes per vine) or 0.8m (for 1 cane per vine). The trellis area, i.e., the space between the top and bottom wires, should be about 1m high; for smaller layouts in the garden- min. 70cm.

Trellis Systems

The type and construction of the wire frames depends, among other things, on the selected training method, and for larger sites, requires professional advice. For small plantings, the wire rope system 0050 is useful.

Training

Selecting the correct training method is best done with professional advice. As an example, the bilateral cane training method, as carried out in the 2nd year, is illustrated here. Please refer to the information under 1st Year grapevines. 

Pruning after the 5th Year

Each trunk develops a so-called "head," which is annually cane pruned. Usually, additional summer pruning follows.

Image 01: vines in vineyard after pruning, prior to bending and tying
Pruning in a vineyard
Image 02: vines after pruning, bending, and tying; unilateral arched canes, bud-burst
Arched canes training in a vineyard
Vines on wire frame arranged as an espalier along a house façade, bilateral arched canes
Row of vines after pruning, bilateral canes (tied as "semi-arches" / semi circles)
Round arches and semi-arches
Timber trellises were the forerunners of wire frames; detail of a painting by Johannes Köhler 1925, vineyard near Burgscheidungen. Wine Museum Neuenburg / Freyburg /Unstrut / Sa.- Anhalt
Historic vineyard
Vineyard in the Elb Valley near Diesbar-Seusslitz - Saxony, winter image
Vineyard near Diesbar-Seusslitz
Horizontal arched canes, bilateral and unilateral, on a freestanding timber trellis
Vineyard with (post and) wire frame
Vineyard with (post and) wire frame
Vineyard near Freyburg / Unstrut
Vineyard near Freyburg / Unstrut / Germany
Fruit in a vineyard
Grapes in a vineyard
Wire frame with vines as a visual barrier along a village road
On slopes, usually only 1 cane is used and pruned (here as a "semi-circular arc") and tied facing down the slope.

2nd Year

Trimming back of the fruiting cane to the height of the lowest wire rope
The cane is supported by a stake (here invisible); occasionally the ties need replacing.
Now the vertical position of the future head is determined; all shoots below are removed. The vine can carry a maximum of 2 - 3 small grape bunches.

3rd Year

This cutting point marks the future "head." You can practice determining the breaking-point of the wood by bending and twisting the vine shoots/cut-off canes.
Trimming back the fruiting cane to 8 - 12 spurs, later bending / tying; by turning/twisting the canes slightly, you can prevent them from breaking.
A maximum of 1 shoot is left on the "head" of the vine stock; all others, especially those along the trunk (water shoot 02), are removed. Each cane is allowed to produce 1 - 2 grape clusters; all surplus ones are pinched off.

4th Year

The 1st and 2nd shoots of last year's cane remain. The water shoot spur is pruned to a "back-up (reserve) spur." If there was no water shoot, then the 1st (i.e., lowest) shoot is cut short (spur-pruned) and the 2nd and 3rd remain as new canes. Again: practice bending with the cut-off shoots!
The two fruit canes are shortened to approx. 9 - 11 spurs, later bending / tying, twisting the canes well. It is best to fix the canes by winding them 2 - 3 times around the lowest wire (this is not absolutely necessary along walls). Make sure you don't knock off the buds in the process!
1 to 2 water shoots emerging from the "head" can remain; all others, especially those along the trunk, are removed. Each cane is allowed to bear 1 - 2 grape bunches-- all surplus ones are clipped off.

5th Year

After thorough initial inspection, select 2 vigorous canes close to the "head" which are well separated from each other and easy to bend to the left and to the right. If at all possible, don't use the water shoot for this purpose. You then cut off from left to right: the left cane from the previous year back to just before the lowest shoot; then the right cane from the previous year is cut off completely, along with a short bit from 2 years ago. The "back-up spur" is then cut to just before the lower of the 2 canes. Last, the water shoot is cut back flush with the "head," because it is not required this time. Beginners are advised to retain this water shoot as a back-up, until the 2 canes have been tied without breaking.
The 2 lateral fruit canes are shortened to max. 13 spurs, then bending / tying, twisting the canes well and winding them 2 - 3 times around the lowest wire (this is not absolutely necessary along walls). In the following years, always prune back to max. 12 - 13 spurs. Before pruning, always select 2 strong canes first, which are close to the "head" but well separated from each other and which are easily bent laterally, one to the left and the other to the right. After the 6th / 7th year, after having removed many water shoots from the "head," the latter has become more "fertile" through the numerous adhesions, and it is then possible to use water shoots directly as fruiting canes. In the first years, these water shoots are usually sterile, i.e., the shoots growing from them produce no grapes.
Older vine in a vineyard after pruning, bending and tying; as a back-up behind the left cane, a water shoot is left which will promptly be removed.