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Pruning the Catawba

Pruning Catawba vines at Creekbend Vineyard in Indiana

Pruning at Creekbend Vineyard is a winter-long project. With 54 acres to prune and only three of us in the Indiana vineyard, plus some assistance from the landscaping crew, we have quite enough to keep us busy until March. We will be working any day that it isn’t raining or blowing snow horizontally. Today, we’re pruning the Catawba field, just under 13 acres of vines.

Before photo of the catawba vines
creekbend pruning after

Why do we prune? Pruning focuses the growth of the vine where we want it, and determines how much fruit a vine will produce. Grape variety, location, soil conditions and climate all play a role in how best to prune a Catawba vine.

We have 33,000 vines ranging from 2 to 18 years old. The younger vines require a lot more attention to ensure that the trunks and cordons are the best quality in order for them to last 25 or 30 years. This has been made even more difficult because of the severe freeze event we had last spring which caused a lot of tissue damage.

The older vines are more resilient, and have made it through the last two years of drought, though next year will be the telling year. We do spur pruning on all our vines, normally leaving two or three bud spurs. This regulates next year’s crop, but we still have to adjust some varieties due to their ability to produce very bountiful crops.

creekbend catawba pruning
creekbend catawba pruning

Our clever vineyard crew built a trailer that has greatly enhanced the pruning experience. As you can see in the pictures, we ride on the back of the 15-foot trailer and adjust the height so the cordon is at a very comfortable level. This is not only more ergonomic, it has reduced the pruning time by more than 25 percent!

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