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.

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