Concord Grape Pruning

Cuttings for these plants were given to me by my Uncle Ernie who farmed outside of St. Louis from 1930 to 1960. While I visited one weekend, he gave the vines to me and said “stick these in the ground, they’ll grow”. I wish he was still with us so I could learn from his experience. How did he cut them to ensure their viability? I haven’t been able to reproduce that success. Though I was successful in moving the mature vines 20 years ago from a previous farm during a January thaw. They are a treasured part of the diverse domestic and wild fruit plants thriving on the Farm.

I pruned the vines during the warmer days of the first 3 months of 2016 . With only 150 feet of plants, I can be somewhat intentional about each cut. I attempt to prune according to the vine’s inclination. Through observation, I try to understand what the vine is indicating it wants and needs to do to thrive. I am past trying to cut it into submission. My Concords are a bit unruly but very productive.

The vines are fed annually with compost I produce on site. The mixed hardwood sawdust mulch reduces the need for irrigation. I defend them from diseases (especially the black rot fungus-Guignardia bidwellii) using botanical teas made from plants (especially willow) on the farm.

Each bunch of juicy Concords is selected for harvest by hand when it reaches a deep blue/black color and exudes the heady aroma of grape jam. That usually occurs in late August. Concords do not ripen all at once.

Concord grapes are said to be a cultivar derived from the grape species Vitis labrusca (also called fox grape) – one of some forty-plus varieties native to North America growing along the East Coast from Maine to South Carolina.

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"Tell me of what plant birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about his vocation, his hobbies, his hay fever, and the general level of his ecological education."

(A. Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, Prairie Birthday Essay, 1949)


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