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How to Prune Wild Grape Vines

Grapevine image by Tomasz Pawlowski from

Wild grapevines can benefit a landscape aesthetically by providing a privacy wall (after maturing) or by providing a delicious fruit harvest for an excited chef or wine lover. One of the most integral parts of growing grapevines is pruning, because if there is no pruning, there is no fruit. When starting out, grow your grapevines from a trellis or stake so it is easier to train and prune the vines.

Let young grapevines grow unpruned for almost a full year. This will help the vine develop deep roots and a strong main trunk (or cane). In the end, it will make the grapevine easier for you to prune because you will understand the growth pattern of the foliage and other canes.

Pick out the trunk (or cane) that looks the strongest once it gets to the beginning of the first year's winter. Locate all the other canes around this one and prune them to the base. Doing this will ensure the majority of the nutrients are directed to the main trunk.

Secure the main trunk to the stake with the twine, pulling tightly around the base, middle and top. If you don't have a stake or trellis installed already, install a stake by digging a hole about 9 inches deep about 6 inches from the grapevine's base. The hole needs to be the same diameter as the wooden stake. Pound the stake into the hole with the hammer until it is secure and tight.

Allow the branches to grow from the main trunk from now until the spring of the second growing year. At this point, prune back all the side shoots from the trunk again, except this time, leave one branch on each side of the main trunk that appears the strongest or thickest on that side. Use the twine to secure the larger vines to the wooden stake. Pinch back the smaller ones in order to start training the vines.

Prune back the top of the main trunk during the second year's summer once it reaches the height you desire. This directs nutrients to the side branches.

Prune off all of the main shoot's and side branches' offshoots during the winter of the second year to create the basic grapevine framework of a main trunk with two arms.

Let the grapevine grow from spring to summer of the third year, only pruning it to maintain the framework.

Cut back the two main branches that grow from the main trunk during the winter of the third year. Prune so 12 buds remain on each branch. These 12 buds are what will produce the grapes during the following (fourth) season. It will appear stubby, as all the buds will have about two leaf joints, otherwise called renewal buds.

Continue to prune the grapevine using this method from Step 8 for the rest of it's life during each winter. There is only one change each year: allow one more bud to grow on the tip of each main branch after the 12 renewal buds, which will provide two new buds each year. This is how the grapevine will grow more and more each year, eventually producing more fruit and growing vines along the trellis for training.

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