The Q&A Archives: Grapes

Question: My grapevines died to the ground last year. They have regrown quite vigorously through this summer. What is the best way to harden them off and how can I be sure to have a crop next year?

Answer: If your grapevines are freezing down to the ground each year, you may be growing the wrong cultivar, or your weather is too extreme for grape growing in general. American hybrids are more cold-hardy than the European grape cultivars. 'Reliance' is the most cold-hardy, enduring temperatures of -34F. You might also try 'Edelweiss' and 'King of the North'if your winter weather is very cold.

The new shoots that developed on your existing grape plant should harden themselves off in the autumn. If the vines survive the winter, they will produce new buds in the spring. Prune the vines back just as the buds begin to swell. You'll want one main stem with 2-4 laterals for grape production. Cut the top of the main stem off to force growth from the buds below. As shoots sprout from the main stem, train them to grow along a support, pinching out any other shoots that form. Repeat this process next year and evenually you'll have a strong framework for grape production.

Good luck with your grapes!

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