How to Grow & Prune Grape Vines

Overview

With new grapevines ready to go in the ground, you'll want to be sure to plant, grow, and prune the vine correctly to get the strongest vine and best grape production possible. As you care for your grapevine, it will take at least three years before you should expect to harvest grapes, but the time it takes will be well worth it. With a good foundation of strong roots which are well fed, your grapevine should have several years of large harvests and juicy grapes for eating fresh, making jams and jellies, or wines.

Year One

Step 1

Dig a hole for each grapevine you plan to plant in a full sun location. Make each hole twice as large as the pot your grapevine is in. Space each hole 5 to 8 feet apart. Fill the bottom of each hole with compost or composted manure to make the hole only as deep as the pot.

Step 2

Install a trellis system or fence to run parallel to the row of grapevines. The trellis or fence will need to have two horizontal supports, one at knee height and the other at chest height. If possible, set vertical posts of the trellis or fence at each grapevine hole or at every other hole.

Step 3

Remove the pot from your vine and set the grapevine in a hole. Fill the gaps around the plant with equal parts compost and loosened soil. Press lightly on the soil to firm it up around your vine.

Step 4

Water your new planting regularly so the soil doesn't dry out. Each year as your vine grows larger, it will need more water, especially as it begins to produce fruit.

Step 5

Spread a 2-inch layer of compost around the base of your vine to act as fertilizing mulch. Each month of the growing season work the existing compost into the upper layers of the soil and spread a fresh layer of compost on top.

Step 6

Tie the strongest vertical shoot to your support in the fall and use a pair of hand pruners to cut away any other shoots coming up from the ground. In mid-winter cut the length of the shoot to include only five to 10 buds.

Year Two

Step 1

Wait for late spring when the buds on your main stem have developed into 4- to 6-inch-long stems. Pick one stem to become the main vertical shoot of the plant and select two other stems close to knee height to be a pair of horizontal branches.

Step 2

Tie your vertical stem and two horizontal branches to the support loosely with plant ties to help guide them along the support in a lowercase "t" shape. Allow the main stem to continue to grow and clip the tip off when it reaches shoulder height.

Step 3

Select two more horizontal stems near chest height at the top of your vine to be the upper pair of branches and tie them to the support as you did the two lower stems. Cut away all other stems at their bases to leave only the four branches and vertical main stem to form a capital "I" shape.

Step 4

Prune the rest of the growth in winter, cutting each branch or arm of the vine back to only two to four buds each.

Year Three

Step 1

Tie any new growth from the four branches to the support to keep them running horizontally and hold them in place. These branches may set fruit this year.

Step 2

Cut away any new growth from buds along the main trunk to focus the grapevine's energy on the side branches you want.

Step 3

Trim the vine again in the winter so each new piece of vine holds only three to four buds each. This maintenance will need to happen every winter when the plant is dormant.

Step 4

Continue to grow and care for your grapevine with regular water, fresh compost, tying the vine to the supports, and winter pruning.

Tips and Warnings

  • While some fertilizers can be good for your grapevines, they tend to encourage excessive leaf production, not better grape yields, and can attract hungry insects and deer to eat the leaves.

Things You'll Need

  • Support system
  • Compost
  • Hand pruning shears
  • Plant ties

References

  • "Giant Book of Garden Solutions"; Jerry Baker; 2003
  • "Growing Fruit and Vegetables"; Richard Bird; 2003
Keywords: growing grapes, growing grapevines, pruning grapevines

About this Author

Margaret Telsch-Williams is a freelance, fiction, and poetry writer from the Blue Ridge mountains. When not writing articles for Demand Studios, she works for WidescreenWarrior.com as a contributor and podcast co-host.