The 2-year old vine
before being pruned
What the vine should look like
It is now the season to prune grapes. Grapes
should be pruned during the dormant season, late November to
February. Pruning grapes insure that they stay tidy, but also
it insure a production of quality fruit, by limiting the number of
bunches to what the vine can support.
The type of pruning I have been using is a cane
pruning. It is well adapted to European vines in Arizona, and
it works fine for me since I needed a vine just tall enough to cover
a swimming pool fence. Other configurations can be more
tricky, but the principles are the same.
When pruning an existing vine, a very important fact
to remember, is that any wood 3 years or older has generally no
viable bud. This means that if you are pruning severely an
overgrown vine, you have to look for recent wood. In some
case, large section of the vine have to be removed.
For this reason, It is really much better to
prune your vine every year rather than waiting to have an
New vines can be
obtained bare root at the local nursery, or from cuttings that you
started a year before. With bare roots, you need to discard
the packaging: do not use any of the wood shaving or other packing
material in the hole for the young vine. Trim any broken root,
and soak the vine in water for several hours.
The vine is
generally shortened to 2 spurs. Water after planting.
The second year, you
might have a cane reaching where you want. You need to tie it
in the proper place. It will be the trunk of the final
vine. The problem you have now, is that you have a large
number of buds that will try to start all at the same time in
spring. This requires rubbing off some of them as you set the
cane, and removing some later in the year as they are growing.
The goal is to leave only 3 or 4 strong ones. In any case
you should remove every flowers from the grape this year, to let the
vine concentrate on wood production.
Third year and after
should now have grossly the shape you are looking for. If you
are trying to grow it on an arbor, it might take longer, and then
follow the same instructions as the second year.
We now want to trim the vine to keep it balanced and
to limit the fruit production, so that the grapes are of good
size. This is done by controlling the number of live buds on
the previous year wood. The simplest way is to prune selected
canes from last year to a short stub and eliminate the rest.
These stubs should show at least 2 good looking buds, but up to 4
depending on the type of vine, and growing conditions. If you
are in area that might freeze hard or freeze late as the buds have
started growing, you want to leave more.
In the spring, as the vine starts, each bud will start
a new cane, and with it a flower structure that will turn in a bunch
of grapes. Canes started later in the spring and summer will
not have any grapes for that year.
As the vine grows older, you can have more fruiting
canes, and more spurs, to increase the production of grapes.
Pruning grapes is generally easy and satisfying.
The biggest point is to do it every year, so that the situation
doesn't get out of hand. The canes that you take off when
pruning, can be used for cuttings (check the article about this).
information about pruning grapes from the University of
A new vine
before it is pruned and planted
planted vine pruned to 2 short spurs
The spurs is what will
provide next year growth. Each bud will start a new stem, and
one bunch of grapes.