The Q&A Archives: Frozen grape vine

Question: Two summers ago I was on the market to buy a house and we eventually bought a house which had a lovely grape vine in the backyard. It was bearing huge bunches of grapes. We bought the house that winter which was a severe winter producing several snow storms. Last summer the vine only produced some new shoots with only leaves, no fruit. Someone suggested the vine had frozen over the winter. Is there anything I can do to find out if this plant is still alive? It's spring now and there are no new leaves, no signs of life, just dry wood. Please help.

Answer: There are many different types of grapes and some are much more winter hardy than others, but many of them are quite reliable in your area if planted in a sunny spot with well drained soil and good air circulation.

Without having seen the plant, I think maybe the problem last year was more likely related to improper pruning. If the vine has become weakened through lack of maintenance, it may have suffered unduly from cold this past winter as well. We have had a lot of rain this past year, and if the plant is in a poorly drained or wet spot, and/or had fungal problems last year, that could also contribute.

Grapes need routine care and pruning to stay healthy and vigorous. Most grapes do best if pruned annually, this trains them to the optimum size and shape for their support and also encourages fruiting. You can still do this now. If the vine is alive it will help envigorate it. Hopefully this will encourage it to concentrate its strength and re-emerge. (They do look sort of dead and lifeless until they leaf out.)

There are detailed pruning instructions at the following web page, including for restoring a neglected vine. It has diagrams to help you see how to do this. It also includes care recommendations.

Your local county extension should be able to help you devise a maintenance plan with minimal preventive spraying based on the specific type of grape you have, and the incidence of specific pests and diseases in your area. Good luck with your grape vine!

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