Answer: Grape pruning can be intimidating, especially if the plants have been allowed to become unruly. First rule to remember is that grape production comes from flower buds that form on the previous summer's growth. So, if you leave some of last year's growth, you should have fruit the next summer. Start pruning by cutting off any unneeded canes. Then selectively cut back the growth left on the trellis or support by looking at the cane from the bottom up and counting at least 25 buds (or nodes where last year's leaves grew). Cut off any growth beyond the 25 buds. This is not a scientific approach, but it is practical, and following it you should be able to reduce the volume of canes without losing all of your next year's crop. Pruning is generally done while the grapevines are still dormant (late winter or very early spring). If you wait until the buds begin to swell on the canes to prune, the cuts will ooze a lot of fluid. This won't hurt the grapevines, but it can be messy until the cuts heal. So, prune during the winter months and you'll avoid the problem. Your grape plants should be fertilized in spring, after they've begun to grow. Take care not to apply too much nitrogen or you'll have lush, green growth at the expense of fruit production. Use about 4 tablespoonfuls of 8-8-8 and broadcast it over 100 square feet of soil near the base of your grape plants. Or you can spread a 2" layer of compost over the same area. As your grapevines mature and begin to develop lots of grape clusters, you can thin the clusters out (I remove about one-third of the clusters). This will result in fewer clusters but superior grapes. Best wishes with your grapevines!
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