Muscadines are native to our area and related to grapes. They thrive when given the proper growing conditions and can yield a bountiful harvest.
The fruits are easy to grow and have few pest issues, thus require minimal pesticide applications. One of the most critical components of muscadines care is proper pruning.
Here is the crucial point to all muscadine pruning: muscadine fruit is borne on new shoots that arise from last year’s growth. When you prune, leave about three inches of growth on shoots that were produced during the previous growing season. Keep three or four buds on the old wood.
The tender new shoots that sprout from them will produce fruit during the coming growing season. If you cut back severely and remove all of last year’s wood, some will emerge from the old-growth but will not bear any fruit.
The one-year-old wood is simple to identify. It has a light brown color and will contain numerous small brown buds distributed along its surface. The older wood is darker colored and appears tougher and more woody
A well trained muscadine vine will have a single trunk that divides into two to four major fruiting arms or “cordons” which grow along the trellis wires. Over the years, the practice of saving three to four buds per shoot on the previous year’s wood will allow a series of short zig-zagging old wood to remain on the cordons.
These clumps of old-growth form what we commonly call fruiting spurs. Ideally, we would like to see them spaced about every six to eight inches along the cordons. After several years of production, you may have to thin out every other fruiting spur along the cordons to prevent overcrowding.
We can prune muscadines as late as early March. In general, the later the vines are pruned, the more saps will come out of the cuts, which is sometimes referred to as “bleeding” you will see. Don’t worry if your vine begins to drip sap following pruning. No harm will come to the vine as a result.
Leaving too many buds on a muscadine vine will increase the likelihood of excessive fruit production of lower quality. Remove any diseased wood, including old spent fruit stems as you prune. Tendrils, which are small string-like growths that allow for the vine to attach to the supporting structure, that wrap around spurs or arms, should also be removed. Otherwise, they may girdle the growth and reduce fruit production.
Pruning muscadine vines is not that difficult. Just remember to leave three to four buds on shoots that grew last year, and you will have a decent harvest.
UGA Extension Gwinnett is having its annual plant sale with a variety of quality fruiting and ornamental plants available at affordable prices. Among them are two varieties of muscadines: “Nesbitt,’” which has large, dark black fruit that ripens in mid-season; “Triumph” with medium to large red to bronze-colored that ripens in the early season. To obtain a brochure and an order form, go to www.ugaextension.org/gwinnett, and click events and classes on the left side of the page, or call the Extension office can mail one to you.