Pruning grapevines helps to keep the wood healthy and produces a higher yield of grapes. This is especially true of the muscadine and scuppernong grapes that are popular in Georgia. Pruning at the right time, however, is essential to the health of the plants and the yield.
Inspect your grapevines closely several times over the winter to identify dead vines and those that branch toward the center of the plant rather than outward. In winter, the vines go dormant and diseased and dying vines are easier to spot.
Wait until at least Feb. 15 to prune your vines in Georgia. In the northern mountains, wait until just after the last expected frost. The goal is for the vines to still be in the dormant stage but not to have any further climate challenges after pruning.
Prune back all dead vines to the main vine on a 45-degree angle. Also prune back vines with leaves that have signs of black spot or white powdery mildew. Dispose of diseased vines by burning to ensure that the disease cannot spread further.
Stand back and view the vine from a distance. If you are training the vine up a trellis, you will keep strong vines that extend straight out from the main stem. These vines will be attached to the trellis and trained upward. Any vines that grow inward or are crowding other vines should be pruned back to the main stem to allow the others space and light to grow strong and healthy.
Prune all vines back to a 2-foot length in the case of a vine that has been allowed to grow unchecked. This will stimulate strong new growth that you can train to a trellis or fence.