Grapes are a popular fruit for the home gardener to grow. They are easy to care for and maintain. It is important to trim the grape vines each year in the winter or early spring, after fruit production has occurred and before new growth begins. This is the dormant period. The pruning process is imperative to healthy, long-lasting fruit production. The job is not as hard as you may think, once you know what to look for when trimming the grape vines.
Mark the grape vine canes with the colored tape to section off first-year and second-year segments. The second year vines produced this growing season should be marked in a different color than the new growth or older vines. The second-year canes are the ones that produce the grapes. The new growth is what will produce next year. The older vines often shed the paper-like bark each year as the thickness of the vine increases. Remove any dead or spent vines.
Locate the main trunks of the grape vines. Remove any "suckers" from around the growing area. Suckers are new grape vines starting to grow from the roots of the original vines. Grape vines do better when no other plants are competing with the nutrients needed for quality production.
Untangle the grape vines so you can determine which ones need to be removed and which ones will remain. There is no set rule as to how many grape vines to keep and how many must be cut back. Any established trunks which are still producing quality canes should be left in the vineyard.
Cut back any weak canes (vines) so the healthy ones retain the important nutrients. The marked second year vines should be trimmed back so there are 7 to 10 buds on each cane and one or two new shoots. Leave 30 to 40 buds on the shoots because these are where the grapes will grow. Too many buds will leave the grape vines fighting to get the fruit to maturity. Too few buds will cause the grape vines to produce plenty of foliage but a small grape yield.
Wire the second year vines up to the trellis or fence. When spring comes, the new shoots will grow off the second year growth and these will be the vines that produce the grapes next year. Wiring to the trellis is done so when new growth starts, the young vines are already trained how to grow.