pruning grape vines

Deb__H(Z6)June 22, 2005

Last year, I moved into a house with a grape arbor. I had no clue what to do with them and did nothing. It produced about 10 lbs of grapes. I really need to have instructions on how and when to prune these things.

Thanks from a newbie,

Deb in PA

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myardor(Z9 TX)

it always amazes me that pp l wont or cant do their own search.
why depend on others to do ur work

i did a google search and this is what i found

1. We have moved into this house late in December of 97, and to our suprise (a nice one i might add) we found grape vines growing in our back yard. The problem is I haven't a clue as what to do with them, They have already born their fruit, small but very nice and sweet. My questions are... is this the right time of season for grapes? when do we prune them?

Grape vines are pruned in late winter or earliest spring, before the new growth begins. Since they bear fruits on new growth, pruning is the main concern. With most varieties, the vines are pruned back to about 5 or 6 feet. The side canes are pruned to about the second or third bud down the cane.

2. Many plants are best pruned when they are dormant.

Pruning grapes -Remember when pruning grape vines, the grapes are produced from the buds of one year old canes which are about 1/4 to 1/3 inches in diameter and are reddish brown. When properly pruned, 80 to 90 percent of the grape wood is removed every year. Now you know why people can make so many grape vine wreathes.

Grape vines with a main trunk and four canes are often trained to a two-wire trellis. Before pruning select four strong lateral one year old canes (arms) that are close to the trellis and mark with a ribbon or colored tape. The largest and heaviest canes are not good fruit producers.

Tie the four arms to the trellis. Choose four more lateral canes to become the arms for next year. Remove everything else. Prune off the ends of this year's arms so that 10 to 15 buds remain on each of the arms and only two buds are left on the renewal spurs (next year's arms).


Growing and Pruning Grapes

Grapes tolerate a range of soil types and are not as sensitive to extremes in drainage as other fruit crops. They ordinarily are most successfully grown on deep, well-drained sandy loams. Vines should be planted in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Set vines a minimum of 8 feet apart both within and between rows, digging a hole large enough to spread out roots sufficiently. After trimming away broken or excessively long roots, lay out the root system in the hole and cover completely with soil. Planting depth should be the same as in the nursery.

Remove all but the best single cane and tie it to a stake or the bottom wire of a trellis to hold it erect. After several weeks, buds should begin to grow. When the new shoots are a few inches long, remove all but the strongest. Flower clusters or side shoots should be removed as the single cane is growing.

Use no fertilizer the first year. In early spring of subsequent years, before growth begins, spread 10-10-10 fertilizer around the vines in the following amounts: second year, 2 ounces; third year, 4 ounces; fourth year, 8 ounces; fifth year and after, 16 ounces.

The four-arm Kniffin training system is the recommended training method for home gardens, although many other systems can be used. The top wire of the trellis should be about 6 feet high and the lower parallel wire about 3 feet high and posts are set 24 feet apart.

During the first year, follow the recommendations given for planting and fertilization. If the cane does not reach the top trellis wire in the first year, allow it to grow as a single cane the following year until it reaches the top wire. In early spring of the second year, tie the cane to the top trellis wire and cut it off just above the wire. Leave four to six buds in the vicinity of each wire and remove the rest. As new shoots begin to grow from the remaining buds, remove any flower clusters that form.

In early spring of the third year before growth occurs, select a total of eight canes (four for each wire) and remove the rest. One cane should be tied along each wire in each direction. Allow these four arms to fruit. Cut the remaining four canes back to a stub containing two buds.

In future years in early spring, remove the fruiting cane from the previous year. Tie one of the two canes from the stub to the trellis wire and cut after the tenth bud. Cut the remaining cane to two buds for next year's stub and arm. In subsequent years, adjust the number of buds on each arm.

Grape buds vary greatly in fruitfulness. The most productive buds occur at the top of the trellis where the shoots of the previous season were exposed to the most light. These canes should be 1/4 inch or more in diameter and have a chocolate brown color.

4. this a video how to...Pruning Grapes -
VIDEO #16397 Pruning Grapes - VIDEO This instructional video demonstrates practical techniques and provides specific information to achieve balanced pruning for a good fruit yield. Graphs are interspersed with in-the-vineyard instruction.
8 minutes.
Weight 0.36 lbs
Price: $ 20.95

5. What kind of grape vines (variety) do you have? [Pruning method depends on the grapes' variety]

How old are the grape vines?

Are you raising them for shade or fruits?

As Lillylac said, the grapes should be pruned when they are in dormant season [and past the danger of frost], depending on location is usually in the winter or in early spring before buds swell. In Ohio, this done in March.

Two of the widely used method of pruning are:
Spur pruning and Cane pruning. Both can be used to train grapes on arbors.

Spur pruning is used for european table grapes and wine varieties.

Cane pruning is used for American varieties, French-American hybrids, muscadine grapes, Olivette Blanche, Rish Baba and Thompson seedless.

Basically, during the first year, you let the vine grow unchecked (don't try to train growth). The more leaves, the better the root development.

6. Pruning and Training

Annual pruning is important in maintaining a uniform yearly production of quality fruit. The best time to prune grapevines is in the dormant season after the danger of severe cold weather has past. In Ohio this is usually in March. Learning to prune grapevines requires practice and experience. Consult Bulletin 591, Growing and Using Fruit at Home and/or Bulletin 815, Grapes: Production, Management and Marketing for detailed information regarding pruning. Your local Extension office can assist you in obtaining this information. Some of the local Extension offices may also offer pruning clinics

sorry for being so straightforward..and now to go and try to prune my 7 grape vines

Here is a link that might be useful: googles how to prune grapes, just in case u dont know how to google

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 11:07PM
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Well ya know, sometimes there are people on here who like to offer their expertise. Sorry I offended you by asking a question on a forum where people ask questions. Guess I'll stick to the gardening forum where people like to answer questions.

Deb in PA (who enjoys interacting with people on this forum, not being yelled at)

    Bookmark   June 23, 2005 at 6:38PM
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Deb, thanks for asking the question. I've done numerous searches on pruning but still wasn't quite sure how to manage my newly planted 6 vines. I think I learned something from myardor's reply.

I'm still not exactly sure what I'm doing, being a complete novice to gardening in general much of the terminology is foreign to me.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2005 at 8:31PM
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myardor(Z9 TX)

deb says>>>>Well ya know, sometimes there are people on here who like to offer their expertise. Sorry I offended you by asking a question on a forum where people ask questions. Guess I'll stick to the gardening forum where people like to answer questions.

Deb in PA (who enjoys interacting with people on this forum, not being yelled at)

i say>> well i am also on the gardening forum so maybe i will also YELL at u there?

deb, grow up and take criticism

dont be a crybaby, act like an adult, get over it, dont just cry and go hide then blame others for ur own laziness.
u can also order the video so u can see how its done.

i suggest that u first do ur own searches, then if u still dont get it, then and only then ask on ANY FORUM. if not u just look lazy.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2005 at 8:47PM
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goodground(z6 NJ)

Deb, you should thank myartor for his reply instead of wanting to storm out of here because of his comment. He stated his opionion, and then provided you with alot of great information. I'm sure he isn't that bad or he would not have helped you .Find out which variety you have and then go from there for the proper care.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2005 at 8:55PM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

myardor - first - "chill-out man."

Second - thanks for the information. I'm sure there are a lot of us, who HAVE done their own searches. But have also found that each time I do, there is usually something new to be learned.

Outside of that, your post was appreciated. Believe me - I have printed out lots of "searched" information - but also learned from your post as well.



    Bookmark   June 25, 2005 at 10:12AM
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Unlike both of myardor's posts, I did no name calling. I merely stated that some people actually enjoy giving answers without first insulting the person who asked the question. If you don't want to answer questions then don't respond. Yes he gave alot of information, but he also felt the need to come back and throw insults again. I don't think I'm the one not acting like an adult here.

Enough said.

Thank you for the information, but kindly refrain from name calling. It's juvenile.

Deb in PA

    Bookmark   June 25, 2005 at 10:35AM
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twobabylambs(z11 CA)

Well, I agree with Deb. There is no need to dole out the insult first and then offer to help. You can ignore the post if you feel the question is undeserving of your answer. This is a forum afterall and a forum is where people share their experiences and knowledge. There is no rule as to how complicated a question has to be in order to post. I've learned a lot searching on this forum. And the reason I come here first before searching on the web is because it is becoming more and more difficult to find solid reliable info out there without inviting viruses and spyware into your computer. Plus you have to read through so much mumbo jumbo to find what you're looking for while you could just ask your question here and get it answered within hours by an expert who is NOT trying to sell you anything.

Anyway, Myardor, if you feel the need to vent, then vent. We'll listen, but PLEASE don't take it out on another forum member.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2005 at 5:39PM
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ncsteele(Zone 5 Iowa)

It always amazes me that people feel the need to abbreviate words and fail to use capital letters. This isn't is AOL Instant Messenger.

On that note, I can't add anything more to this post other than good luck with the grape vines.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2005 at 1:31PM
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It's kinda like having a coupon for an item, trying to use it, being told you can't use it, then they let you use it anyway. Myardor man, your info is great! But why the attitude. I've been gardening all of my 49 years but just joined the forum this year and I've learned so much just by asking questions. I agree it's best to look for your answer before posting it, but I've done the same thing that Deb has done and I was instructed in a nice way by a member to look for my answer before I post. I agree with Bejay, chill out!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2006 at 9:06PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Deb, his first cheaky remark wasn't that bad, I think even though it wasn't the most polite thing to say you should respect his honesty and appreciate his information. Also, I didn't notice any name calling in the first post, and only cry baby in the second (which I'm pretty sure wasn't called for)

I'm not defending myardor's comments, but I don't think that focusing on them rather than the excilent information he produced is a good idea, after all, whats more important here, good information, or being very nice but not haveing the right information? Of course I tend to be rather gruff at times, mostly with people who refuse to listen to information, but sometimes when a question is run into alot aswell, thats why I like to use the disclaimer "Not for small children or big babies"


    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 3:00AM
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My dog chewed off one of my canes that I planned to use to spur prune this coming winter. I have about two buds left close to the trunk that are growing well on that chewed cane. Can I use one of those buds to continue the cane or shoud I grow a new one from the main trunk? These are muscat grape vines.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 1:15AM
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harleysilo(7 Roswell,GA)

Well this thread sure applies to me. We planted a grapevine this year, the location gets full sun, I dug a large hole and planted. It's growing wonderfully. However, when we bought it, it already had buds starting to grow, shoots were a few inches, not wanting to drastically damage it after the transplant I left it alone. Now after reading all the info in the second post I've determined that basically I should go out there and cut off all the limbs except the strongest one, is that correct?

Said plant pictured below...

The vine forum must be tired of this topic....

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 10:11AM
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harleysilo(7 Roswell,GA)

Scratch that question, mother nature decided if for me, didn't cover the garpe vine, duh!

Now what?!? Wait and it will start to regrow?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 10:32AM
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goodground(z6 NJ)

Sorry for the laugh. LOL!!!

What happened to it? Prune it back and watch it grow. I don't think you were expecting fruit this year anyway. As long as the vine is alive, you'll be ok.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 10:54AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Harley: I would cut it off about a ft above soil line. Know you won't be able to do that. So when it starts to regrow, cut it as low as you can stand. Then train the strongest shoot up a pole to the level where you want arms. Grapes have an amazing number of reserve buds and always regrow an abundance of shoots.

The Fruitnut

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 10:59AM
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harleysilo(7 Roswell,GA)

O.K. Fruitnut, will do, the new this year Artic Kiwi also got hit by the frost, I mean with a name like Artic who would have thought 24 degrees would be an issue....any suggestions on what to do?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 5:17PM
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harleysilo(7 Roswell,GA)

O.K. Grape vine has been pruned, not to 1ft but I've got a pic of why, unless you tell me a really good reason to chop it further, I'll leave it at about 2'. No I wasn't expecting fruit this year. I have no problem chopping it further either would just like to know what the benefit is.

The bud pictured here appears unharmed. Should I put a cotton sock or something on it tonight?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 5:44PM
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Thanks for posting the pics, it would be very helpful if more folks did that.
One of the things that make doing a search so time consuming & difficult is wading through snippy commentary that does little to pass along useful info.

Here's a brief commentary that describes pruning (needs pics though) and some handy tips on treating for fungus:

Here is a link that might be useful: UC Davis Home Orchard

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 3:38AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

That bud looks good. Buds like that can take down to 20F or lower so there is no need to cover anything now.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 8:56AM
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I just bought a house in Shenandoah, VA. It has a grape arbor in the back yard, with excellent exposure to the sun. The vines that are on the trellis are about 3 to 4 inches in diameter at the ground. But my question is about trimming since the buds were almost 90% burned by the frost this spring. Should I just follow the advice in this discussion?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 11:12PM
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Why are you being so rude and nasty myardor? If you don't want to answer the question or you don't like people asking questions then let someone else answer. I believe this is a forum for people to ask advice and answer questions if they WANT to, not to be told to go look yourself....

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 3:41PM
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Ok, is is safe to ask a question here? Oh! And yes, I did a search and didn't get exactly what I needed. It is July 5th and my grape vines attacked everything in sigtht. I had to trim all the off shoots because they were attacking the neighbors cherry tree and moved into her yard over night! I trimmed up to where the grapes were and everything that grew over the 6 ft fence ( totaling about 39 feet with all the cuttings if they were lined up.

So, the question is: will this stunt the grapes or anything? What should I do in the future.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 12:05PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Jill: You need a yearly pruning program. Grapes are produced only on wood that grew the previous yr. Therefore, each dormant season you remove all wood older than what grew the previous summer. Of the 1 yr wood you leave only about 40 buds, nodes, per vine. This will keep the vine from getting out of control. But if the vine is too close to your neighbor, or whatever else, it will not solve that problem.

If you have more questions please post a new message. This conversation was way out of the norm. This is a very friendly forum.

The Fruitnut

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 10:01PM
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bill999(z6 Pa)

Thanks, Myardor, for the tutorial on grape pruning. In ten years of growing my two vines I never saw it laid out like that. I may be sending in pictures of my sickly vines which turn brown late in the summer. Another poster mentioned Pierce's disease and now I'm wondering. One died back to the ground and the other has serious browning every year even with a good grape crop.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 8:15PM
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I'm new to this forum, and I do want to thank Myardor, fruitnut, harleysilo, and others here for the info, pics, and suggestions.

One reason I come to forums like this instead of trying Google first is that Google usually gives me tons of extraneous information and links to sites that aren't all that relevant and/or are mainly commercial advertising sites. Usually, if I can ask a question of someone who's knowledgeable in a field, it's a lot more efficient than just searching through the library's card catalogue or wading through all the stuff that Google yields.

However, if I ask a question in a forum, I don't expect people to go out and do my library or google research FOR me if they don't already have the info. :) I just see forums as places for people to share info and opinions and experiences they already have - or to direct each other to good info sources.

Speaking of "pruning," :O back in May I had a guy doing some yard work for me and he was totally incapable of following instructions or directions. Long story short, after we had carefully moved all the long offshoots from my 22-year-old purple Concord grapevine onto the trellis I wanted to train them to, he proceeded to take a chain saw to the 5-inch diameter main trunk of the vine, right near the ground! (No, I didn't kill him, but I wanted to!) The stump hemorrhaged sap for at least 2 to 3 weeks. I tried grafting some shoots from another (Champagne) grape onto the stump, but I don't think that "took" because it was too late in the season.

Anway, new growth has been sprouting from the old stump ever since late June, and the leaves look very healthy.

Does anyone how long I'm likely to have to wait for a decent crop of grapes from this severely "pruned" old grapevine?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 5:25PM
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I came across this post as a result of doing a search, and found the description to be very helpful, so a big THANKS to both the person asking the original question as well as the person that provided the info.
Keep up the good work, eh?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 8:43PM
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Ok,the winter is here and my grape vine doesn`t have any leaves on it.I have vines growing through my chain link fence and the plant is 3yrs.old now.Last summer I finally had some grapes but they were so tiny they just fell off the vine.How much of the vine can be cut off ? Thanks,Dave
You can also e mail me at

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 10:34AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

I guess it all depends too on what you want to accomplish.
Dave, I would leave it alone until early spring and then you might train
one or two vine along the chain link and cut the rest.
I takes several years until you get a good root system and decent size grapes.

June 1. I had to prune the grapes for my mom in Switzerland, [on a visit]. You can see one leader is growing along 4 rooms on the farm house, this grape is growing there for probably close to 100 years without fertilizer.

When driving along the grape region of Switzerland, [lake Geneva] I was talking to a woman who was tying up vines,... got some lessons. Vines are cut back about 90%... in picture, showing the tying with some type of grass twines, only about 2 or 3 vines every year, these grapes here are about 40 years old.
They are producing grapes to a restricted amount without fertilizer, [heavily pruned back]

More pictures from the wine region along one of the largest lake in western Europe. Some area there is more concrete terraces then grapes. can see France on the other side of lake.


    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 2:03PM
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Arbors are not very good for proper grape pruning. You have a choice between aesthetics and fruit. The best way to produce fruit is on a trellis wire where you can see that the vine is pruned to the correct degree.
Most wine grapes are pruned to two bud spurs, a spur being last year's growth with the dormant buds. Some few varieties like Concord need longer spurs and are pruned to a semi cane style with 5 bud short canes, "or long spurs".
I prefer to cane prune as you get better fruit set with cane pruning. A cane is a shoot of 7-14 buds length.
A cane pruned vine will have from 2-4 canes of 7-14 buds, depending upon the variety.
With an arbor, it gets to be invariably a tangled mess of wood and of all ages going all directions, plus there is usually more than one grape, so it is like taking a Kitten out of a ball of yarn.

Here is a link that might be useful: Oregon State Univ. Hort.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 3:51PM
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I am hesitant to ask since after reading all of the "bickering" in the last few posts and to an expert I have a dumb question. All I need is a yes or no answer. I have two four year old Concord grape vines that are bearing fruit for the first time. They had two 7-8 foot canes per plant after pruning last winter. Now there are canes all over the place and a lot of them have no fruit at all. Should I remove, cut away, the canes with no fruit to get larger or better yield on the ones that do or leave them all alone?

Thanks for any help, Bob

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 2:58PM
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I watched a show by a popular garden expert (Cisco) here in wesern WA and he recommended pruning back to the third bud. It's worked well for me. Enjoy what you get regardless. Homegrown grapes are great.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 9:09PM
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Great, I'll do just that....and by the way, Happy Birthday henryr!


    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 9:54PM
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HELP!! My inept gardener pruned my beautiful 4 year old grapevines the year before last and they never grew last year- they look dead! Now it is the 2nd season and they are still looking dead...any ideas what I can do to help them. Thank you

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 1:44AM
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carole, ran across your post while searching for some tips. Unfortunately, after 2 years, I think they're probably goners. You could try the exchange forum to see if you could trade for some new vines. I'm currently trying to root some concords and thompsons. I'll be posting them for trade when they're ready.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 11:14AM
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