Many grapevine species (Vitis spp.) produce sweet, seedless grapes that are great for snacking, or making juice and jelly. They generally thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 to 9, although this varies depending on the species or hybrid. In cold-winter climates, species such as Vitis vinifera, or the common grapevine, are often grown with multiple trunks. That way stems damaged during severe winters can be removed, and the vine will still have healthy stems for grape production. Regular pruning of these vines is necessary to keep them healthy.
1 Prune off all but four to eight shoots at the base of the grapevine right after it is planted. String lengths of strong twine or wire from the base of the vine to the trellis for the stems to climb up.
2 Tie the strongest, healthiest main stems to the trellis with twine, and let them grow during the second summer. Do not pinch out the tips. Pinch side shoots off the main stems when they appear.
3 Prune the main stems back to where the wood is the same thickness as a pencil in the second winter, and remove the side branches. Prune off extra side shoots when they reach 6 inches long in the spring. Space them 12 inches apart along the stem. Tie the side shoots to the trellis wire when they grow to 18 inches long. Remove all but one or two strong, healthy stems growing from the base of the main cane. Attach the one or two retained stems to the trellis in the same manner as the original main stems.
4 Prune all of the side shoots back to two buds in the winter of the third year. Prune off any shoots or stems that do not need to be retained for grape production every winter from the third year on. Remove winter-damaged stems each spring.
5 Prune the side shoots back in the fourth winter and each winter thereafter. Leave several long fruiting canes and several spurs on both sides of the side shoots. Cut the long fruiting canes back to eight to 12 buds. Cut spurs back to two buds. Alternate the fruiting canes and spurs so a fruiting cane is growing on one side of the shoot and a spur is growing on the other side of the shoot opposite the fruiting cane.
Items you will need
- Sharp pruners
- Twine or wire
- Rubbing alcohol
- Remove all the trimmings from around the grapevines, and burn them or place them in the trash to be removed from the property. This will reduce the chance of disease or insect infestation.
- Disinfect the pruners with diluted bleach or rubbing alcohol before and after every use.
- University of Illinois Extension: Hortanswers: Small Fruit: Grape: Vitis Vinifera
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Vitis “Reliance”
- Washington State University Spokane County Extension: Grapes
- Cornell University: Cornell Fruit: Assessing Winter Cold Injury of Grape Canes and Trunks
- West Virginia University: WVU Extension Service: Agriculture: Pruning Small Fruit Trees
- The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service: Grape Growing in Tennessee
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images