Growing grape vines for fruit can be a challenge. Grape vines need strong support as they grow because they can become long-lived thick plants that take up a lot of room. For fruit production, vines must be pruned and trained beginning in the second year. If a vine is planted for a screen or cover, nothing other than occasional pruning and fertilization is needed.
How to Grow Grape Vines
Train 2-year-old plants by cutting the vine back to two buds in the early spring. This is a good time to add one cup of granulated organic fertilizer outside of the root zone and add fresh mulch around the base of the vine. Keep a two-inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant, leaving an inch of space between the mulch and the main stem.
When the weather warms, take the strongest and most vigorous vine and tie it to a pole or trellis. Cut off the other cane.
When vine reaches the desired height (no more than 72 inches for fruit production), top the main stem or cane at a bud. Allow two buds to form near the top of the vine and grow in opposite directions. Tie them to a trellis or structure. Remove all the buds below the two main buds.
In the third year, prune the two canes that are growing in opposite directions by cutting them back to two or three buds per cane. Remove any buds that are forming below the two dominant canes. Also, apply annual fertilizer and freshen the mulch. Allow one or two bunches of grapes to form and mature by thinning out other clusters in mid-spring. Leaving all the clusters on the vine to mature will weaken the plant and diminish the quality of all the clusters.
Prune the vine in subsequent years to keep dominant canes viable and producing. This is where each variety will have its own requirement. Generally, prune to no more than 50 clusters per vine, but balance the quality of the grape clusters with how many you remove each year. Always fertilize and mulch every year.