How to Prune Your Grape Plants

Overview

Grapevines benefit a landscape with a delicious harvest of fruit (one vine can produce several bushels a year), an aesthetic value and even a privacy wall if they're trellised correctly. The key to growing successful grapevines is to prune them regularly to encourage growth and maximum fruit production. Also, if you grow your grapevine on a stake, it will be easier to prune because you can see the separate branches, prune back the weaker ones and stake the stronger ones for optimum growth.

Step 1

Let the young grapevine thrive during the first year in the ground with no pruning until its first winter. This will develop a strong root system, main trunk (otherwise known as the cane) and abundant foliage. Once the grapevine establishes foliage, it will be easier to prune it for the first time because you will be able to understand its growth pattern.

Step 2

Pick out the strongest-looking cane in the first year's winter season. Prune back all of the other stems to the base of the grapevine, as close as possible.

Step 3

Use a shovel to dig a hole about 10 inches deep next to the grapevine as thick as the diameter of the wooden stake. Pound the stake into the hole with the mallet until it is secure. Keep in mind it is easier to have the stake already inserted into the ground before planting, so you don't risk tearing any roots by inserting it after you plant the grapevine.

Step 4

Secure the main trunk to the stake with plant ties or twines.

Step 5

Let the stems grow out from the main trunk until the spring of the second year. At this time, begin removing all of the side shoots from the main trunk except for the two that look the strongest and thickest. Train the vine to grow where you want it to by securing larger vines to the stake and pinching back the smaller ones.

Step 6

Prune back the top of the grapevine trunk during the second year's summer. Do this when the vine reaches the height you desire, as pruning this area will encourage new growth in the trunk.

Step 7

Prune back all side growth from the main trunk except for the main side branches during the winter of the second year. This is the recognizable framework shape of the grapevine: the main trunk with two long skinny side stems.

Step 8

Let the grapevine thrive during the spring and summer of the third year. Lightly prune it to keep the basic framework.

Step 9

Prune the grapevine during the third winter season, which is very important to its fruit production. Prune the main branches so there are 12 buds left on each to provide grapes during the fourth growing season. The vine will look stubby once you are completely done pruning, as all 12 buds will have one or two leaf joints, otherwise known as renewal buds.

Step 10

Continue pruning this way for the rest of the grapevine's life, allowing one more bud to grow on the tip after the 12 renewal buds each pruning season. This slowly yet surely lets the grapevine grow longer and stronger each year, allowing it to train easier on a trellis and produce more fruit harvest.

Things You'll Need

  • Gardening gloves
  • Bypass pruners
  • Wooden stake, 5 feet tall
  • Twine or plant ties
  • Mallet

References

  • Oregon State University Extension: Pruning Grapevines
  • PruningGrapeVines.net
  • Ohio State University: Basic Principles of Pruning Grapevines
Keywords: trimming grapevines, pruning grapevines, grapevine care

About this Author

Lauren Wise has more than eight years' experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food, wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, including "Runway," "A2Z," "Scottsdale Luxury Living" and "True West." Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Arizona State University.