Q: We have an old muscadine vine in the back yard and would like some information on how to revitalize it. There are several dead limbs towards the bottom and the entire vine is only producing a few grapes.
We are not sure how old it is because it was there when we bought the house twelve years ago. We have never done anything to it. Can you help?
A: I can help with information but I am thankful I won’t be there when you undertake this task. It will be a lot of work!
Your first job is to assess whether it is worth revitalizing the vine at all. If it is in full sunshine, on a wire arbor (not climbing up a tree) and the grapes you’ve harvested are good quality then the grape vine can be revitalized successfully. If it is in shade or climbing a tree with no arbor nearby you’re better off planting a new “named” grapevine in a proper spot.
Assuming you have an old vine that is simply overgrown on a wire arbor, plan to do some “tidy up” pruning this fall. Identify the main trunk and possibly the two arms that lead from the trunk in different directions along the arbor wire. Shorten the arms back to the dimensions of the arbor (usually ten feet in each direction from the main trunk).
Remove any dead vines you find plus any weeds or brambles growing under the arbor. Hoe out weeds in a ten foot diameter circle around the trunk and cover the bare soil with wood chips or pine straw.
Between now and next spring call your local Extension Service office (404-897-6261) and get a free copy of “Home Garden Muscadines”. This will direct you on how to do the major pruning you’ll undertake in February.
When you’re through pruning in February all of the limber growth from this year will be completely removed and only a center trunk and two strong arms will be left growing along the top wire of your arbor. You’ll be amazed at how much has to be cut off. Nonetheless, the sweet nectar of a ripe muscadine in late summer is worth a lot of management effort during the year.