The Q&A Archives: Pruning grapes

Question: With the recent purchase of a house, I inherited several fully developed grape vines of different varieties. Being a novice with grapes, when and how should they be pruned? Do they produce on first year growth or only second? Is there any special nutritional care required? Dave Bench Salt Lake City, UT

Answer: How you prune your grape vines depends on how long its been since they've been pruned -- well-maintained vines need only maintenance pruning, while neglected vines will need more radical treatment. In addition, there are many ways to train a vine -- to a trellis or an arbor, or freestanding tied to a stake, for example -- and this will affect how you prune. From your note I will assume that you only need to do maintenance pruning. First of all, prune in early spring, after the coldest weatheris past but before buds begin to swell. Prune out any canes that appear to have suffered winter damage, and cut out any weak or crowding canes. One method is to then prune off side branches from the main trunk, leaving 4 lateral canes. Prune these 4 canes back so they each have about 12 buds. Fruit clusters form from buds on one-year-old canes. Maintenance includes keeping weeds down, and mulching annually with compost.

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