Prune Your Grapes…Now!

The cold weather has been a mixed blessing. By now I would have had our grapes pruned. The cool temperatures have slowed down their development enough for me to catch my breath and get caught up a little bit.

Usually, in April, the grapes would be budded out, making pruning a hazardous prospect for the vine. You see, if grapes buds start to swell, they become soft and fragile. Many of the buds that you would like to keep can be broken off during the pruning process. As you well know, grapes become a tangled mess when growing and when pruning you have to tug and pull on the vines to get them out of your arbor.

Pruning before bud swell eliminates all of this damage.

As you can see, I have a lot of pruning to do. This photo was taken from above the grape arbor, looking down. It is about 75′-80′ long and 10′-12′ wide.

Looking down on Grape Arbor

Describing the whole process of grape pruning is a discussion that is too long to cover in a blog post. I will tell you a couple of things though. You cannot over-prune established grape vines. They are very vigorous growers.

If you have a traditional two wire system holding the grape vines, prune back everything except 8 or 10 buds on each branch coming off of the main trunk. A two wire system gives you 4 branches; one to the left, and one to the right of the trunk on the top wire; and one to the left and one to the right on the bottom wire. This is the most common method of training grapes.

So, 90 to 95% of the vines have to be cut off each year! This is a whole lot more than if you were pruning a fruit tree or shrub.

That’s all I have time for now, if I get a chance I’ll post an “after” picture of the grape arbor. Meanwhile, take advantage of this lucky turn in the weather and prune those grapes before it warms up!


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