Betty Bingham On Pruning and New Plantings

by Betty Bingham
Bingham Family Vineyards & Pheasant Ridge Winery


bingham 1We have had a nice, cold winter here on the High Plains of Texas allowing the grapevines to sleep through and the elimination of harmful insects. Now is the time for those vines to start waking up and budding out.

Some varieties, such as the Viognier, are just beginning to bud out. This is good, because we may have more freezing weather in April that could kill the buds. Hopefully, we will not have any freezing weather in May like we did last year. We can prepare for the freezing weather we normally expect on the High Plains in April by delaying our pruning and thus delaying bud break. We prune our different varieties in the approximate reverse order that we think they will bud out. Thus, our Viognier is the last to be pruned.

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Before pruning the vines start out rather scraggly looking

Screen shot 2014-05-08 at 10.35.55 AM A mechanical pruner doing the major, rough pruning before workers go through to do the fine tuning.

Screen shot 2014-05-08 at 10.35.55 AM
A mechanical pruner doing the major, rough pruning before workers go through to do the fine tuning.

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Then the vines are pruned using the spur pruning method as these vines show. Here you can see the “T” shape of the spur pruning.

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Here is a vine that has been reduced to two spurs which are arched and then tied down using the can pruning method. 

This year, we are pruning some of our vines using the cane-pruning method. We’re trying this on all of our Vermentino and two-thirds of our Viognier vines. For this method, workers go through the rows making two main cuts to get rid of the old cordons. They then select two to four new canes to tie down later and eliminate the others.

We planted 20 acres of Tempranillo and 10 acres of Trebbiano on the 24th and 25th of March. The touches of spring are very encouraging.

bingham 6The circle system shown  serves as a reminder to us of how our vineyards are slowly replacing our row crops because of the reduced availability of underground water, which we use to farm row crops. The green that you see in the field is Rye, which was planted between the rows to keep the fields from blowing. The underground drip, bamboo, wires and end-posts have not been put in yet. You can’t even see the grape plants because they are covered in dirt to keep the warm until they push out into the world in a few weeks.

We haven’t had much rain this winter, but the underground drip irrigation has been watering the grapes to prepare them for a good season of growth this summer. This isn’t the time of year when the vineyards are most beautiful, but there are touches of spring to encourage us that this summer will be a good growing season.

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