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Rejuvenating Old Vines

When pruning and training are neglected, a vineyard soon becomes a
sorry company of halt and maimed vines. These neglected vines can
rarely be reshaped and restored to their pristine vigor. If the old
vines seem capable of throwing out a strong new growth, it is almost
always better to grow a new top by taking out canes from the roots and
so rejuvenate. The energy and activity of Nature are seldom seen to
better advantage than in these new tops, if the old tops are cut back
severely and the vineyard given good care. The new canes grow with the
gusto of the biblical bay tree, making it difficult oftentimes to keep
them within bounds.

Usually this new top can be treated essentially as if it were a new
vine. Not infrequently the cane will make sufficient growth and mature
well enough so that it may be left as a permanent trunk at the end of
the first season. If, however, the wood is short, weak and soft, it
should be cut back in the autumn to two or three buds from one of
which a permanent trunk can be trained the next season from which a
good top can be formed in another season. The old top is discarded as
soon as the new trunk is tied to the trellis. Old vineyards are often
rejuvenated in this way to advantage and return profits to their
owners for years; but if the soil is poor and the vines weak, attempts
to renew the tops seldom pay.

Occasionally rejuvenating old vines by pruning is worth while. When
such an attempt is made, it is best to cut back severely at the
winter-pruning, leaving two, three or four canes, depending on the
method of training, of six, eight or ten buds. The amount of wood left
must depend on the vigor of the plant and the variety. The success of
such rejuvenation depends much on selecting suitable places on the old
vine from which to renew the bearing wood. It requires good judgment,
considerable skill and much experience to rejuvenate successfully an
old vineyard by remodeling the existing top, and if the vines are far
gone with neglect it is seldom worth while.

Sometimes old vines or even a whole vineyard can be rejuvenated most
easily by grafting. This is particularly true when the vines are not
of the kind wanted, and when the vineyard contains an occasional stray
vine from the variety to which it is planted. Directions for grafting
are given on pages 45 to 50. The grafted vine is readily brought into
shape, under any of the several methods of training, by treating it as
a young vine.

Next: Grape-pruning On The Pacific Slope

Previous: Pruning And Training Muscadine Grapes

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