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Jackie Clay

Q and A: pruning grapes, heating canned foods, and canning Velveeta cheese

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Pruning grapes

My questions are about my concord grapes. 1st my mother told me the first year I moved onto my property to cut my grape vines all the way down to leave only about 6 inches. I hadn’t grown any before but did as she said. It took about 3 years before they were grown back enough to produce well. Now she keeps telling me that I need to do this every year. I am wanting to know if this is true. I can remember others having grape vines when I was a child and don’t remember them ever being cut down so much. My 2nd question involves honeysuckle. I don’t know how or why but it started growing up around and through my grape vines this past year and they were literally choking out some of the grapes. I tried keeping ahead of it and cutting it and pulling up what I could (very difficult). How do I get rid of the honeysuckle without harming the grapes? I would have loved to have it over by my porch growing on my lattice instead, but after dealing with it on the grape vines and not being able to get rid of it, I am rethinking that desire.


Grapes really shouldn’t be pruned as severely as you’ve done. You can remove some of the older vines each year and prune your grape to suit its location. There are good videos and online websites on different methods of pruning grapes so you can learn more. It is NOT necessary to prune grapes at all, but they will look and bear much better with yearly pruning during their dormant stage, usually in the late winter/early spring.

As for your wild-growing honeysuckle — I hate to use Roundup, but in your case I think it’s probably your only alternative. Cut all of the honeysuckle vines down to the ground. Then when the sprouts begin growing up, isolate each one and paint Roundup on it, protecting your grape vines so you don’t splash Roundup on them. Be sure to cover every shoot; be vigilant over a few week’s time so none escape treatment. That should save your grapes. Don’t get complacent and ignore the “dead” honeysuckle; check the area very well every single week this spring. It is very tenacious! All the best growing this spring! — Jackie

Heating canned foods

Notice you are always talking about making chicken and tuna salad from your canned goods, yet advise boiling all canned good for ten minutes first. It is a little confusing do please advise how you do this. Do you do it directly from the jars or boil it first?

Margaret Baker
Valleyford, Washington

All home canned pressure canned foods should be heated to simmering for at least 10 minutes before eating. What I usually do is to open a jar and set it in a pan of water then bring it to simmering for 10 minutes. Then I stick it in the fridge until I’m ready to use it. I often do a few jars at a time so I can have sandwich and salad filling during the week. Don’t keep refrigerated jars more than a few days in the fridge but when used relatively soon, you can have “instant” cold meats that are safe to use right out of the jars. — Jackie

My Mother always told me to boil pressure-canned foods for 20 minutes when opened to insure food safety. If I can using all the correct methods and times, do I still need to do this, or is it unnecessary?

Nancy Amon
Milton-Freewater, Oregon

It is now recommended that we bring pressure canned foods to a boil/simmer for 10-15 minutes before eating — just for extra safety. Longer boiling was recommended when our ancestors water bath processed vegetables and meats — a dangerous process. Now we use a pressure canner and our food is much safer. — Jackie

Canning Velveeta cheese

I know you have given instructions on canning cheese, but could you also put up Velveeta cheese in the same manner? Since this is some sort of processed cheese spread I am unsure. Thank you, and God bless.

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

Yep, I’ve canned Velveeta and even cheese sauce using the same method for hard cheese. It’s easy and what a convenience! — Jackie

2 Responses to “Q and A: pruning grapes, heating canned foods, and canning Velveeta cheese”

  1. arm2008 Says:

    For the persistent honeysuckle another option is a picking up some “stump killer.” There are several brands, get what your local hardware store carries. Roundup will do it, but we found stump killer did it faster (I think 1 application was all it took) and we didn’t have to think about Monsanto every time we came across the container.

  2. Zelda Says:

    Brenda, your Mom may have given you that advice to cut your grapes down to the ground or almost because she is from or has gardened in the south. The native muscadine AKA scuppernong grape often puts up multiple shoots which should be cut down, but leaving one main stem as with other grapes. She may be remembering the cutting but not the main stem. You want one main grape stem (and one low bud and stem in case it dies) with spaced out side branches, spacing depending on the vertical spacing of your grape trellis or arbor. For best production and biggest grapes, you prune those side branches back but as Jackie said, you don’t absolutely have to do that. Think of all the native US grapes which grew on the east coast for centuries (including Concords) with no pruning. The fruit may have been small, but there was fruit. There are lots of good, easy to understand short articles on the Internet about pruning grapes but as with all pruning, you can use your pruning shears to shape your grape vine to whatever suits your needs. If you cut your grapes down to the ground each year you won’t have any fruit, as you found out. Grapes produce fruit on one year old wood. Prune in the spring, whenever that is where your vines are.

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