Growing your own grapes can be a fun experience. However, grapes need to be trained and pruned a certain way to produce properly. Each year you will prune approximately ninety percent of the last year’s growth off of the plant. However, grapes are very forgiving and if you make a mistake, you will get a chance to correct it the next year.
Grapes should be pruned relatively late in the winter, in late February or March, so that a late frost does not damage the canes and buds.
It is necessary to train grape vines so that they start off right. When you get your grape vines, they will probably not have been pruned, with lots of roots and lots of top growth. Cut all the branches off except one. Cut that one down to three buds.
Construct a trellis for your grape vines. The most common one is a wire trellis supported by stakes that hold the beginning vines straight. The wire should be about thirty inches above the ground.
After planting the grape vine, it will begin to grow and put out new green shoots. Choose one that is straight and coming from the original stem. Cut off all the others. Stake this one shoot to make it grow as straight as possible and prevent it from breaking in the wind. This shoot will be the trunk of your vine for as long as it lives, so choose carefully. As the shoot grows keep tying it to the stake so it does not break.
The first year of growth, the vines should reach the top of the trellis wire. Cut the side shoots off. If the grape vine just barely reaches the top of the wire, cut the top of the grape vine at the first bud above the wire and tie the shoot to the stake and wire.
If the grape vine has grown quite a bit above the wire, cut it to four or five buds above the wire, then bend the vine down and tie it to the wire along its whole length.
Occasionally, the vines will be very vigourous and go above the wire as well as put out strong side laterals. Choose the two laterals that are closest to the wire and prune them to three to five buds. Then tie them to the wire. Prune the main stem to just above the side laterals. Cut the extra side laterals off.
Continue tying the new shoots to the wire all summer as they grow. Remove any shoots that sprout from the root area or lower trunk.
For the second season and beyond, cut all the shoots growing off of the branches that are trained to the wire. Remove shoots from below the wire on the trunk or from the roots. Continue fixing the branches to the wire as they get longer.
Remember that grapes are grown on new growth each year. The goal of pruning is to remove that year’s growth so that you stimulate more new growth.
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