James Fleming is a scholar who writes about the Middle East and I enjoy his perspectives. Here is one on vineyards.
First, I would like to clarify something that is hard to see in English. In the Greek language, the preposition "take away," is the same preposition to "lift up." So, for the phrase, "any branch that bears not fruit," the translator has to decide whether to say, "Take away" or to say "lift up." You can’t tell from the Greek which way you should translate that into English or any other language. The problem was that during the rainy season, vines lay flat on the ground.
In the Bible, rain was a blessing and sun was a curse. When the Bible says, "the Lord wants to cause the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike, " in means he wants to bless everyone. When the Lord causes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust alike, everyone is going to have some dry times and some famine.
There was so much rain sometimes in the winter that the vine rotted. The vinedresser kept a rock or two near each vine. The vinedresser, you might say, knew each vine by name and how it was doing. He would lift it up if it was not bearing fruit, to air it out and dry it so it would not rot. The vinedresser remembered how each vine did from season to season. Sometimes, listen carefully, we have so much blessing, so much rain, that we get rotten and we need to dry out a bit and the vine dresser lifts us up.
(Fleming, James W. Desert Spirituality. Biblical Resources Conference Lecture Series, June 2002., pg 110)