Sunny, 40 F Degrees, Let's Go Out and Garden!

Yesterday was sunny and relatively warm with temperatures hovering around 40 F degrees, so I decided to spend an hour or so outside in the garden, puttering around and doing some light pruning.

With some trepidation I slipped on a pair of my ‘gardening jeans’, jeans that I had promoted from everyday wear to gardening wear. I was concerned that between the effects of GRTH (Gardener’s Reduced Time with Horticulture) and the gravitational forces in my closet drawing the threads closer together, that the jeans might not fit.

But they fit!

So I grabbed my pruners and holster and headed out to see what I could do in an hour or so in the garden.

I decided to trim back the grape vines.

I hadn’t pruned these vines since a few years ago when they were knocked back by a late frost, so they were a bit out of control. I did pause for a moment to think “how should these vines be pruned and is this the right time to prune them?”

Then I just started pruning. My first order of business was to cut them back away from a little Korean Spice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) next to the arbor, and then I cut anything that looked like it might be dead. In the process I did confirm that one of the grape vines, a variety called ‘Himrod’ which is supposed to be good for just eating, was dead, so I cut that all out.

Then I stood back and wondered how to prune the rest of the 'Concord' grape vine. I thought about going inside to look up how to prune the grapes, but decided to just go for it. I happily pruned it back and left some main stems.

Time ran out before I could deal with the pile of brush I created, so I left that for later. Some other nice day, I’ll get out my chipper shredder and chop it all up for mulch.

Later in the evening, I did some online research on how to prune grapes, to see if I had really done a hack job on the grapes or if I’d done alright.

Here’s what I found in a Purdue extension brochure on Growing Grapes in Indiana:

"An average mature grapevine will have 200 to 300 buds capable of producing fruit. If all buds were retained the result would be a large crop that would not ripen properly, reduced vine vigor, and poor cane maturation. To avoid this situation researchers have developed a method of pruning to balance the fruit productivity and vegetative growth which will give maximum yields without reducing vine vigor or wood maturity. This procedure is called “balanced pruning”. The number of buds retained is balanced to match the vigor of the vine. The term used to describe vine vigor is “vine size”, which is determined as the weight of one-year-old cane prunings

To balance prune a grapevine, estimate the vine size, then prune the vine, leaving enough extra buds to provide a margin of error, usually 70 to 100 buds total. Next, weigh the one-year-old cane prunings with a small spring scale. Then use the pruning formula to determine the number of buds to retain per vine (See Table 2). For ‘Concord’ vines the pruning formula is 30+10. This means that a vine that produces three pounds of cane prunings would require 30 buds for the first pound of prunings plus ten buds for each additional pound for a total of 50 buds. After determining the appropriate number of buds to retain, prune the extra buds off, taking care to space the fruiting buds evenly along the trellis."

Now, admittedly, these instructions are for commercial growers, but still, does it have to be that complicated?

I think my hack job will be good enough.
We’ll see in a few months if I inadvertently removed all the fruiting buds. I sure hope not, because I want to make some more grape jam in August.

Oh, and while I was out puttering around in the garden, I ran across my tiny little patch of crocuses, also enjoying the sunny day.
I knew you would not want to miss seeing them, too! They are simple and uncomplicated and remind us of why we garden.


  1. Carol - it's so great that you were able to get outside for some gardening. Everything is still covered in snow here but today is 45 and rainy so maybe I'll see the grass sometime soon.

  2. Ha, yesterday Austin was in the 40s, and we all thought it was too cold to go outside. (I did some gardening anyway.)

    Today it's supposed to be about 68 degrees, and I'm going out in a few minutes to prune back the rear garden. Hope you get some more garden time today too, Carol.

  3. Today is the day I should be outside doing something in the garden but the wind is so fierce I am inside with windows open. Doesn't seem right but hey...
    Love your crocus. I see the second bloom peaking below the main bloom.

  4. Ummmmm, Carol? Here it's about 25 F, windy, and milky-sky colour--it was sunny, but now high cloud is comin' in, bringing us the latest storm du jour. The question is, will this one be rain, snow, sleet, or a plague of toads? Not that I'd think toads were a plague, of course. So I'm sticking to my original plan to stay inside, read, write...and feel sorry for the cranky horse in the barn, who thought he was going out today.

    Sigh. Austin gardeners...I'm coming to visit all your blogs.

  5. Ha, prune first, read instructions later, eh? I like it, including your holster, not on the belt, but on the pocket. You are so clever. I try and never garden in jeans, not enough give when in that ever always crouching position. Polar fleece in winter and old knit yoga pants in summer, lots of stretch, and pockets, must have pockets. So glad you were able to be out, doesn't it feel great?

  6. Sometimes February is kind isn't it ? I remember it was once 68 degrees on February 12 !

    Glad you were able to go out and scratch your gardening itch ( or your trigger finger ) by pruning out all the dead wood.

    I think your grapes will be just fine. I always severely pruned mine and they came back even stronger than before.

  7. Hi Carol,

    You know that pile of brush can just sit right there. It'll provide a nice habitat for birds that like brush as well as for little critters that need the protection.

    That's what you can tell yourself anyway.

    Robin at Bumblebee

    I'm trying to spread the word that the old RSS feed address that some people have doesn't work anymore since I moved hosting services. The address must be updated for blog readers to recognize the updates. Thanks.

  8. Carol would do a hack job? Never! You know what you are doing, admit it. But I had to laugh because I've been clipper happy with so much in my garden, all the while thinking, "I really don't know what I'm doing but I think it's right." LOL!

    BTW, glad those old jeans fit!!!

  9. We had great gardening weather today, too, although a bit the 60's. Tomorrow 40's are predicted, with possible rain by Tuesday. Just enough nice weather to get me pruning too, although I know I shouldn't yet :) If I had to follow those instructions I'd shovel prune them all!

  10. Today was one of those rare perfect days in Austin. After four months we finally got a good drenching rain yesterday (with no severe storms after all). This morning was sunny, calm, and the entire garden was washed clean of dust and pollen and just glistening. The temperature was perfect, the plants all perky, and I swear zillions of seeds sprouted overnight...some good (cosmos) and some not.

    If we could have one good rain a week and if the temperature never got much warmer than today, I'd be perfectly happy. We spent the day pruning too.

  11. Oh - I'm so glad you were able to get out and prune and work in the garden. And, I'm glad you were able to get into your jeans, too! Too funny. Doesn't it feel great to prune it all back? It's like a little soul cleansing. Spring will be here in no time.

  12. Today would have been a nice day to be out since it was in the 50's, but the wind would nearly blow you away!

    I hope your pruning will be successful and that you'll have lots of grapes for more jam.

  13. Bravo! We were out in the cold as well edging the planting berms though the ground was frozen in places which made it impossible to dig even if the air temps were in the mid 40's.

  14. I have on my calendar to trim back the grapevine in mid-March. I think I picked that up from listening to the Saturday Gardening Show with you-know-who.

  15. Yolanda Elizabet had a post about pruning not that long ago that was easy to follow. I've read "The Grape Grower" in preparation for our new venture growing grapes this year and it had a great chapter on pruning. It does seem to be a bit technical though, doesn't it?
    We bought our vines yesterday - 4 Reliance and 2 Himrod. I'm going to pot them up until they can be planted.

  16. Gina, I sure hope you can get out soon to garden, I know you can hardly wait.

    Pam/digging, I guess temperature is all a matter of perspective. It was even warmer on Sunday, 60, but too rainy then windy to do anything outside, darn it.

    Lisa at Greenbow, That same wind was howling through here yesterday.

    Jodi, You do seem to have some pretty brutal winter weather. Someday it will warm up for you!

    Frances, It did feel great to get outside for even that hour. I took that picture of my pruners in the clip on holster just for you, glad you noticed!

    Carolyn Gail, I did indeed scratch that gardening itch briefly, but now it is itchier than ever and it is cold again! February can also be so cruel.

    Robin(Bumblebee), You know me, I'm all about providing shelter for critters, especially birds. I'm so glad you left the comment about your RSS feed, I hadn't updated mine and I was missing some good posts.

    Mary, Yes, I'll admit, most of the time I have a pretty good idea what I'm doing, and even when I don't know what I'm doing, I know I don't know!

    Leslie, Shovel pruning, that's funny. I probably pruned these a few weeks earlier than I'd like, but I just HAD to do something out in the garden.

    MSS@Zanthan Gardens, Sounds like heaven in a garden. It would be nice if all our days in the garden were like that.

    Diana, There is indeed soemthing good for the soul about pruning.

    Robin's Nesting Place, Thank you, and I can't remember when it has been so windy as this past month!

    Ki, Some of my ground was more squishy than frozen at least on the surface. I'm sure the ground is frozen, though, beneath that top layer.

    Sherry at the Zoo, Mid-March might be better timing, but I decided to just go for it. Stop listening to those garden radio shows and listen to me!

    Kylee, I'll be watching to see how 'Himrod' does for you. Mine was never the same and finally died after it got frosted out two or three springs ago.

    Thanks all for the nice comments!
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  17. "Step-by-step: Restoring a Grape Vine" by Lee Reich in Horticulture Feb. 1991 pp.20-21

    "Training Grapes" by J. Hannum, Fine Gardening July 1988 p.18ff

    "Pruning Grapevines" by L. Greensfelder, Fine Gardening Jan. 1989, p.38ff

    "Pruning a Grapevine" by R.B. Swain, Horticulture March 1986, p.15ff

    "Training Grapes", Organic Gardening Sept 1988, p.22ff

    Anyone besides me have the Gardener's Indexes published by Joy McCann? Too bad she had to quit after 1994.

  18. YIPPEE! So nice to see those crocuses, all open and full. Seems like just yesterday that were just cute little buds. Ah, how quickly they grow, these little ones... ;)


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