A Few Thoughts on Muscadine Production
Many things could be said on Muscadine production, but here are a few things to think about once you have decided on what type of trellis system you will build. No matter the kind of trellis system you have for your Muscadine, I recommend an H brace at the ends of the trellis. It is very strong and would not be a hazard to trip over as a guy-wire system would. A nine gauge wire or larger should be used the length of the trellis to support the fruiting arms (cordons). The trellis wire should be secured to the end posts on the H brace, but allowed to slip through the line posts. This wire can stretch and will need to be tightened each year after pruning. I like installing a wire strainer on the trellis wire to keep it tight. You can easily find wire strainers in the electric fence department at most farm supply stores, and they will allow you to tighten the wire with a wrench.
During the dormant season when you are tightening your wire, it may be a good time to go ahead and check for tendrils that may be wrapped around the permanent parts of the plant such as the trunk, fruiting arms, or even the spurs. These tendrils can girdle the vine at that point so make sure you remove any tendril that may cause problems. If a tendril has girdled the plant to the point of killing part of the vine, you should cut the dead part out and replace it as the plant starts growing the following spring. Once Muscadine leaf out they are hard to see so the best time to check for girdling tendrils would be during the dormant season. However, if you did not check before your plants leafed out, I would not wait until they go dormant again. Anytime is a good time to remove a girdling tendril.
Try not to wrap the fruiting arms around your wire to hold them up. The arms should be loosely tied to the wire with wide straps or something that will not girdle the cordons. Some people loop a wire through a piece of old water hose and tie to the trellis wire to support the arms.
It is recommended to prune Muscadine between December and March. I would make sure to prune Muscadine before the new growth begins in the spring. Before pruning Muscadine, you need to remember that Muscadine bloom on new growth stemming from one year old wood. When pruning, you should prune the long vine of last year’s growth back to 3 to 5 buds, which may be five or so inches long. We refer to that five inch long shoot as a spur and the new growth from that spur will be the shoots that bloom and produces fruit. If we prune like this each year the spurs get farther away from the arm, so eventually around year 5 or 6 we may do some spur thinning. That would be removing a portion of the spur to allow new vines/spurs to be produced.
We have a very good publication titled Commercial Muscadine and Bunch Grape Production Guide that has a lot of information on Muscadine production. The guide has a table that lists many different Muscadine cultivars and lists characteristics such as sugar content, size, hardiness, plant vigor, harvest season, etc. If you have any questions on Muscadine production, give us a call at your local Extension office.
My area of responsibility is Commercial Horticulture, which is the production of horticultural crops to sell. This would include nurseries, sod farms, Christmas tree farms, cut flower production, fruit production, and vegetable production. I have an email list that I use to send information out to growers on a regular basis. If you would like to sign up to be on my email list, send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will gladly add you to the list. If you are interested in other topics, I suggest contacting your local Extension office in order to be added to other Extension email lists.
Dr. Chip East
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Photo courtesy of USDA ARS