Pruning Grapes Early & Growing Rhubarb

Question:

Will, I harm next year's crop of grapes by cutting back old, ugly branches now? I did that last year and had very few grapes this year.  

Answer:

  • January/February is the traditional time to prune grapes. However,  if you choose, they can be pruned earlier.
  • Grapes are dormant once the leaves start to turn color and drop off. The green leaves are storing energy and food for next year in the fall, so you don't want to remove them too early.
  • Pruning grapes early does not affect production. Improper pruning by cutting off the fruiting spurs is the primary cause of little to no grapes.
  • Grapevines are vigorous growers that produce lots of stems and leaves each year. For many, it's a confusing mass to prune for many, especially if there are no defined vertical trunks and laterals.
    • Grapes need to grow on a trellis structure with one main trunk and several lateral branches. A typical fence is not necessarily the ideal trellis for grapes. With time, the fence is damaged by the growth. Poor air circulation increases problems with diseases, and the vines are difficult to maintain.
    • Also, your neighbor may not appreciate the vegetation growing on his or her side. A separate trellis structure off the fence improves the maintenance and disease issue besides avoiding a neighbor dispute.
    • Here is a youtube link that is beneficial in pruning grapes.

Question:

When is the best time of the year to plant Rhubarb? Does it grow best in the sun or the shade, and will it need to be supported with a stake or trellis? 

Answer:

  • Rhubarb is planted year-round, but you have difficulty finding it after Memorial Day.
  • Rhubarb grows in a clump, so it doesn't need any support. It's planted as a root division as those started from seeds are disappointing. It's widely available either from bare-root division or already growing in gallon cans, January through May.
  • You'll dig a good-sized hole for each plant, twelve to eighteen inches wide and ten to twelve inches deep, with the native soil is amended generously with organic matter.
  • For the average family of four, three to four plants will be plenty. You should pick a sunny location; however, the leaves may burn when the temperatures are over ninety degrees when planted in the afternoon sun. 
  • The plants are spaced three feet apart, or they can be grown in containers. The first year after planting allows the stalks to grow and not harvest and pick a small crop the second year. Rhubarb is fed monthly with an organic  Azalea, Camellia, and Rhododendron Food to encourage the new growth. 
  • You divide the clumps every four years or when the diameter of the stalks starts to thin during the winter months. Also, only the stems are edible as the leaves are poisonous to consume but okay to handle.