Is an old grape vine in my urban back yard worth saving?

melissastarMay 25, 2012

A few years ago, I bought a row home in Baltimore. The backyard had a rather shaky pergola, which is now completely falling apart and needs to be replaced or at least ripped out, so it's time to redo the whole (small) back yard.

The dilemma to start with is whether or not to work around and try to save what is, I suspect a pretty old grape vine. It makes terrific shaded area, covering the pergola in summer with thick leaves and grapes. I like that, and I just plain like keeping old things around. But, the grapes aren't really edible (of course, if I had a way to prune the vine properly, they might be). It's a single plant with two main trunks (is that the right word, in this context?) each of which has a diameter of about 4.5".


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If you cut the vine nearly to the ground it will grow back as big as you want in one season and you can have grapes the following season.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 4:12AM
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Yup, you can save just the root system, letting it grow back from the base (cut off at about 2 inches above ground), or you can save the trunk and main wood if you want to.

Age isn't really a factor, to my knowledge, with grapes, I've got some vines that were planted in the 1960s and they are still very vigorous and thrive.

I think there are probably far older vines than mine out there in wine producing regions, especially in Europe. Some may go back a century or more???

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 6:12AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Here you go ... 240 years and still producing. Probably there are older ones but perhaps not sufficiently well-documented to age accurately.

Here is a link that might be useful: Grape vine

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 12:57PM
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Thank you all for the responses! That makes me feel better.

Does it matter when during the year I cut it back that far? Or will the vine come back even if whacked off in mid summer?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 3:07PM
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You shouldn't really do it later than about July 4th, because the new growth will need to time to mature and harden off going into the autumn. If you do it later, the odds are very, very slim you will kill the vine, but the new growth that emerges might not make the winter, and the vine would have to start over from square one the next spring.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 4:39PM
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What I have read is that grapes cannot isolate and heal over a cut like trees. So a large pruning wound is likely to become rotted with time.
The recommendations I read was to cut as low to the ground as possible/reasonable, and then mound soil over the shoots that emerge so that they can self-root. The old rootsystem will supposedly support them well for several years, and the new root system should be well established by the time rot takes out the old.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 7:02PM
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I have a similar situation, in that we have a decades-old grapevine that I'd like to revive. It has been covered in blackberries for years, but was growing up into a tree to find light even last year. I hadn't thought to cut it all the way back, because the woody vine itself is maybe twenty feet long. But my question: will new growth sprout along that long vine, or only from the ends (or stump if I prune it back)? It just seems crazy to cut the plant back all that way.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 11:07PM
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You didn't state what the grapes were--muscadine, concord type, white/amber/ thin skins etc...

I went to a 'pruning clinic' at the local 'pick your own' vineyard and the County AG agent used a saw on the oldest, heaviest of the vines, He cut them to the ground, The next spring, he chose two of the sprouts to use as the main trunk,, by the third yr he had it on the wire that was 6' tall. Pruning is always a little scary to me but after watching this-- I decided I could do it.. Good luck..

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:21AM
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