vine to wine guide

Grape Pruning Guidelines



red grapes

During the care and maintenance of your grape vines one of the main procedures needed to be carried out annually is pruning. Left to simply grow unchecked your vines will develop into a wild unkempt mess with much more vegetation than fruit. The quality of the grapes will also be much less than desired. Therefore to get the maximum yield from your plants they have to trained along a trellis and any unnecessary growth cut away. The grower has to understand, pruning grapes is not a haphazard procedure, careful selection of the best shoots to develop is a must. Some basic hand tools will be needed, initially while the vine is small and young pruning shears will do the job. Later, as the plants grows larger with thicker, heavier branches you will require a lopper and a wood saw. Grape vines are not thorny plants so the wearing of gardening gloves would purely be a matter of personal choice.

Your goal in developing a productive vine is a matter of working to a plan. From the roots a main stem will grow, this is effectively the same as the trunk of a tree. From this main stem countless off shoots will naturally develop in just the same way branches grow off a tree trunk. Left unchecked the branches grow offshoots, the offshoots get bigger and become branches which develop offshoots and so on and so on. So you can see why pruning is vital for success.

The timing of pruning grapes is during the plants dormant period, typically late November to early March with many choosing a warmish February. With the main stem tied to the trellis, three to five side shoots are typically chosen, tied to the trellis for continuous growth and the remaining foliage cut away. Depending on the variety of vine planted and the desired shape it is to be grown determines what you prune off. You should expect to remove 85% or so of one year old wood. During the vine's first year the basic 'frame' or skeleton is the goal. From then on the work will be to improve and develop that framework into your productive vine from correct removal of extraneous foliage through pruning practises.

Later, as the vine starts to become productive the fruiting buds, the actual part that grows the bunches of grapes will have to be carefully trimmed back. Too many fruiting buds will lead to overcrowding and poor quality berries as they all compete for food, water and sunlight. By selective pruning of the buds a much heavier and tastier grapes can be achieved. You need to take care not to over do it or you will simply destroy all your hard work by removing the very part of the plant that is there to provided the crop.

As with all things there is a right way and a wrong way to do things and growing and caring for grapes well is simply a matter of knowledge. While mother nature will do much for you, you can mess up by poor practise. Read and learn as much as you can on the subject so you know what to do and pretty soon you will see the fruits of your labours.