Grapevines are rewarding for the avid gardener, wine-lover or chef to grow, and one alone can produce several bushels per year. The most important part of growing successful grapevines is regular pruning, which promotes fruit production and training vines. Ideally the vine should be growing on a stake or trellis, so you can identify the weak vines from the strong ones and cut back accordingly.
Allow a young grapevine to grow during the first year in the ground with no pruning until the first winter. This benefits the grapevine in several ways: It helps the plant develop strong roots, a main trunk and foliage. This will end up making the plant easier to prune, since you will be familiar with its growth pattern.
Choose the strongest-looking trunk (or cane) during the winter of the first year. Cut back with the pruning shears all the other canes around this one to the base. This directs the nutrients to the main cane, making it even more strong.
Dig a hole about 8 inches deep next to the grapevine that will snugly accommodate the diameter of the stake. With the mallet, pound the stake into the hole until sturdy.
Secure the main grapevine trunk to the stake with the plant ties.
Let the surrounding stems and vines grow outward from the main trunk until the second year's spring. Then remove all the side shoots from the main trunk except for the two strongest and thickest, one on each side. Secure the larger vines to the stake and pinch back the smaller ones. This is called training the vines.
Cut back the top of the main trunk during the summer of the second year when it reaches the height you want. This promotes new growth on the sides.
Cut back all of the offshoots from the main trunk and two main side branches during the second year's winter. This gives it the basic framework.
Allow the grapevine to flourish from spring and summer of the third year, lightly pruning it to ensure the framework stays recognizable.
Prune the two main branches during the third winter so there are 12 buds left on each branch to provide grapes during the fourth season. Although it will look stubby afterward, this is because all the buds will have one or two leaf joints (renewal buds).
Prune with this method for the rest of the grapevine's existence each dormant season. The only change is that each year, you will allow one more bud to grow on the tip of each main branch after the 12 renewal buds, equaling two new buds per year. This slowly yet surely allows the vine to grow larger and stronger each year. This in turn produces more fruit and makes training more efficient.