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Pruning should not be delayed too long, particularly grape vine pruning. Prune before the end of June, just in case there is a mild winter and the pruned vines start to bleed.
Bleeding -- the result of pruning after the sap has started to rise in the stem -- can be very scary to a new gardener who has never seen it before. The clear liquid pours from the cut stems on warm days, but little harm is done to the plants. They merely draw more moisture from the soil to replace the liquid lost. The sugar content of the sap so lost is very low indeed.
And remember to prune hard. Select the main rods, usually one to the right, another to the left, and prune off, right down to two buds, all other side shoots coming from these main rods.
That is the basic pruning style, but there is another style in which the longish shoots arising from the main rods are tied down hoop fashion, forming loops all along the rods.
In both cases the new shoots which will carry the grape bunches arise either from the two buds left on the rods, or from the loops along the framework rods.
Many gardeners, especially new ones, are unwilling to tackle the pruning of their fruit trees, vines or roses. Having never done it before they are scared they will kill the plants.
No worry. Man has been pruning grapes, olives, peaches and apples for more than 4000 years. If growers in 2000 BC could learn to prune, so can you.
There are no mysteries or secrets about pruning. There are a few simple rules, and, like many gardening activities, the more you do it the more skilled you become. In no time you will be helping some other new gardener prune his or her trees. General rules are:
* Cut out all dead, diseased and wind-damaged wood;
* Give the tree, bush or rose a good shape;
* Encourage flowering and fruiting shoots;
* Look to the future and train in replacement wood.
A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, but better still is attending a pruning demonstration by a horticultural or rose society, where hands-on experience can be gained. Members are always willing to help new gardeners. Watch the newspaper columns in this paper for advertisements of pruning demonstrations. These usually concentrate on rose and fruit tree pruning, but often include grape vine, Passionfruit, kiwifruit and small fruit pruning too.
If no demonstrations are advertised, ring up the local garden club and suggest one be staged. Or the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Agriculture New Zealand division, may be planning one, or can put the new gardener in touch with someone willing to give one-to-one tuition -- not to do it for you, but to help the amateur reach the stage where he or she can tackle the job confidently unaided.
Then, remembering the help so willingly given, once the skills have been learned, offer to help some other new gardener. That way the knowledge will be spread around, and all gardeners will benefit, new and experienced.