and Pruning Grapes
section covers the popular cordon methods of pruning grapes.
include the European head pruning method for limited space or for
dealing with an overgrown or neglected vine.
and Pruning Grapes
Pruning and Training
An arbor is the best way to
train grapes for home gardening. A grape arbor can be a family
project -its construction, planting of the grape vines, pruning,
harvesting and of course, eating the fruit.
planting, grapes should be pruned back to two buds. Do not prune
muscadines. As the vine begins to grow, select the strongest cane and
train it up the arbor post, figure 2. All side canes should be tipped to
simulate the trunk. During the second and third year, allow one trunk to
develop, with all the side canes pruned off as they develop. A single
cane should be selected to grow across the arbor to form the cordon.
Grapes can be grown even in
very little space. One vine could be used in a cubic yard of soil with a
small amount of direct sunlight. A standard arbor as illustrated here
could be established in an 8' x 8' area. Larger arbors could be
developed as desired. Grapes and muscadines can be grown on an
unpruned natural arbor or a well pruned maintained arbor.
Each could be trellised onto the type of structure illustrated in
figures 3, 4 and 5.
natural arbor is permitted to grow randomly, forming a thick mass
of canes. There is very little upkeep and the vines produce a dense
shade. Since the vines are not pruned annually, there would be
significantly fewer grapes produced.
The maintained arbor
is covered by vines which are pruned to a two-bud spur-type cordon,
figures 3, 4 and 5. Prune vines in February or March to a single cordon.
Each spur should be pruned to contain two or three buds. Figures 3, 4
and 5 show three mature vines pruned to a cordon system. Grapes should
be pruned in this manner every year in February or March. Muscadines
should be pruned in November or December to reduce bleeding.
Build a simple, strong trellis or arbor with one or two wires between
posts. This is called a cordon trellis. During training, the trunk(s) and
fruiting canes will be attached to the trellis wire with a loop of small
rope. If only one wire of the trellis is used to support the fruiting
canes, the lower wire may be used to hold a drip irrigation line. Be sure
to brace the end posts so that the trellis can bear the weight of fully
mature vines loaded with fruit and buffeted by wind. A good brace may be
made by placing a strong loop of wire around the post and through a post
anchor installed in the ground, and then twisting the wire around itself
it in the center. During the first growing season, the vines should be
allowed to produce as much growth as they can without being trained to the
The first winter after planting, cut the vine back to one or two healthy
canes which arise below (for non-grafted vines) or slightly above (for
grafted vines) the ground. If two canes are left and one dies, then the
entire plant is not lost. These canes will become the trunks. Cut them
back to three or four buds. Hang a durable string from the top wire of the
cordon down toward the plant. Use two strings about six inches apart, if
you are going to train two trunks. As new growth begins, it will be
trained up these strings to the wire. All canes which are pruned off need
to be removed from the vineyard to help prevent disease and insect
During the following growing
season, allow only the strongest shoot from each trunk to grow. Remove
other shoots about once a month. Also remove any flowers or fruit so that
the young vine will not be weakened. Train the trunks up the strings until
they reach the top wire. If there are two trunks, train one in each
direction along the wire, tying them loosely with cotton or hemp string.
If there is only one trunk, pinch the end of the shoot and allow it to
form two branches to train onto the wire. The shoots trained on the wire
are called the fruiting canes.
During the winter, remove all the lateral growth from the trunk and the
fruiting canes with hand pruners. The next growing season, allow the vine
to grow as much as it can. The vines may be allowed to bear a small amount
of fruit this year, if they are strong enough. If you plan to grow fruit
this year, you should leave some renewal spurs at pruning time, as
During the winter, cut off all the canes except the fruiting canes and two
others which originate very near where the trunk meets the wire. These two
canes, or renewal spurs, will form the new fruiting canes during the
following year. Cut them back to three or four buds each. During the
summer, train the main shoot from each of these along the trellis wire and
tie them loosely in place. The vines should be in full production this
and Following Years
During the winter, remove the old fruiting canes. Cut back all the lateral
growth on the new fruiting canes to two or three buds. These spurs will
bear fruit the following year. Also remove all the other canes, except for
two new renewal spurs. If the vine is weak, leave fewer buds. If the vine
is vigorous and produced a good crop, more buds may be left. This part of
the art of pruning comes with experience.
Head Pruning Method
This one is trained like a tree - a European method to
get lots of grapes in a small area. You could go this route from the
start - to have them be productive in a limited amount of space.
You can also use the heading back method to tame an overgrown neglected
vine and reroute it into the cordon method described above.
- in the winter, remove all but 3-6 of the
best canes, keeping the ones that are evenly placed around the top of
- then cut those canes back to 2-4 buds
- most of the buds will become fruiting
spurs next year, but some will grow into new canes
- each year select a few new canes that
grew from the spurs or that have appeared directly from the trunk and
repeat the cutting back to 2-4 buds process
- as the vine gets older, you can
gradually allow more spurs to develop
For an overgrown vine that you
would like to train into the cordon method, do the heading back as
described above, but go for a flattened form of head pruning.
Keep more main canes, at least 6, that are on the same plane, and the ones
that will lie flattest against the supports - so that the remaining
smaller canes and spurs you leave on it are heading outwards from
the main trunk. Select canes that would be the best to
tie to the new horizontal supports you put in place, choosing the most
pliable, straightest, untangled canes to train out horizontally from this
basic form. Prune back to at least 4 buds on each cane to help
ensure the vine survives this drastic pruning.
[ Home ] [ Grapes ] [ Bush Berries ] [ Strawberries ]