Need Grape Support Advice

gardener365(5b Illinois USA)April 24, 2014


I live in IL in zone 5 and I purchased 14 varieties of seedless grapes that arrived yesterday. Tomorrow I will be going to purchase lumber and wire and fasteners and I'm going to run electrical conduit across the entire top of each post. It's a straight shot. The conduit is to stiffen up the entire trellis.

What I don't understand is how seedless grapes should be trained in my climate. I was planning on a single wire cordon system, but I've read that dieback is a concern in colder climates with this type of pruning. All the grapes I've ordered except maybe 1 or 2 are all 5b (my zone) or hardier. I know for a fact that one is a 6a grape.

If you guys might be able to guide me as to which pruning "system" to use for seedless grapes and at what height my (hopefully single wire) or (more wires, i.e. 2 at max) is best for IL, I'd surely appreciate it.

So system (kniffen, cordon, etc-) is where I need help and what height my wire or wire(s) would best be suitable for climate and ease of production.

I really thank you.


Here are the varieties I have (right click image and select "view image" for larger)

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I don't have experience in IL other than helping my Mom from a distance with a Swenson Red many years ago. In TX, 6b and now 7b, I've a strong preference for single wire over two wires one above the other. The bottom wire is nearly worthless. Vigor is much lower there and who wants grapes buried under the higher canes.

So I like a single wire at about shoulder height with cane pruning. I think you can cane prune any grape but some don't work spur pruned because the first few buds aren't very fruitful on some varieties.

Just fill the wire with one cane. Doubling up on the canes usually results in too many new shoots and I end up thinning some out.

I don't know how the training system affects hardiness. Guess I'd say if a variety isn't fully hardy or nearly so replace with one that is. You'll have plenty of choices. Please post results.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:13AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Awesome. Sounds like good advice to me and I think you're right regarding hardiness. It makes sense.

I appreciate it.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 5:01PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Heya, thanks again.

I was only able to run 90'. I was planning on 110' but my posts weren't tall enough. The curvature of the property is pretty deceiving.

All in all a great day today. And a few three days prior basically doing the same thing in my vegetable garden with timber from my wooded property... beans trellis.



    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 6:55PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Is that a wire, or the top rail from chain link which you are running between the posts (it's tough to see in the pic). I'm using top rail (10.5', 1.375" rails between 8' tall, 1.625" posts). But, I just planted last fall and this spring, so I don't know how it will do long term. While it may be a bit pricier, I figured it would be less of a pain than dealing with wires (anchoring them, taking in tension, last longer, etc).

It looks nice- it looks like you went to some effort to make the whole thing level. I didn't worry about that for mine. I was just happy that I got the posts deep enough that I think it will keep standing.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 8:15PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Hi Bob,

I used a line level. The posts are rounded & treated lumber however, each post isn't the same diameter/circumference, therefore I couldn't use a level on the posts so a few aren't perfectly perpendicular. So be it. It still came out real nice.

That's just 3/4" galvanized, electrical conduit across the top. It's sturdy and each 10' section of conduit costs less than three dollars. And to hold those to the posts I used 3/4" two hole zinc pipe clamps. All materials being relatively rust proof, strong. Photos...

Last post I was forced to use concrete. All other posts are buried 24" and didn't need concrete. That last post I only had 9" of depth.

Photos uploaded to photobucket so you may click on them and magnify them several times in order to view larger sizes.

Here's the first photo now uploaded to photobucket:


    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:33AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

All planted. I planted all (14) varieties @ 6'5" apart. I figure I'll see what's hardy (cold and pest:disease/insect.)

(magnify 2x after clicking on picture if interested)


    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 5:40PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)


That looks nicely done. Let us know how it holds up- I think the top rails would be stronger than conduit, but I have no idea if the extra strength is needed.

Most of the grapes I planted are on the horizontal rails. It is kind of like the kiwi arbor I built last summer, but only forming a line instead of a square.

I'm also trying a few grapes with just a 10.5' rail set vertically into the ground. Maybe I can grow them more like a tree/bush. While that may seem strange, I did find one book online which described the method, so it may not be too crazy. What gave me the idea to look into that method is that I planted a Mars in a 5 gallon bucket in the spring of 2012. Last summer, it have me several bunches of grapes with no support at all- looking like a bush.

I've planted:

"normal" seedless:

Muscadine (not hardy in your area):
Late Fry
Fry Seedless
Black Beauty

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 12:33AM
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The UW Madison Ag Research Station has had a seedless grape trial going for several years now. They use a Vertical Shoot positioning system. The link has descriptions of the varieties hardy in 5a, and a detailed presentation of their pruning methods. Good luck with your grapes!

Here is a link that might be useful: UW Madison Ag Research Station, Seedless Grape Trials

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 4:34AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Neat stuff from both of you. Bob, that Kiwi arbor is stiff. It was humorous to read it's a few inches too short and you bumped your head quite a bit. Vertical grape growing makes sense to me. Any vine can be trained.

fruitmaven, that is one incredible link. I'm very happy you shared that. It's exactly what I needed! Many thanks!!

Naturally a lot of us do our own 'trialing' when someone else has already done the work and completed the data. This isn't an exception. I'd of liked to have been able to space at 10' per vine or 8' but luck didn't have it that way.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 8:13AM
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gardener365, I spec'd out my 'Crimson Seedless' grape trellis in another post. I'm not sure how well my setup would work in your locale. I like the flexibility of being able to easily raise, lower or remove the cross-wires.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:41AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Pretty innovative. Learn a lot as people have great ideas and yours is one.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 8:04AM
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