The Q&A Archives: What do I go with my second year grape plants?

Question: I bought my grape plants from home depot one year ago ( ithink they are second year plants). This winter I pruned the growth back to the wood and now the vines are growing like crazy. I put up a fence with three strans of wire. They are growing up the main stake. Should I trim some of them off and just let one grow up the stake and let that branch out or let many vines grow up the stake and tie them to the wire. I live in chandler, az.

Thank you very much,


Answer: For grapes to be most productive, they must be trained to a definite system and pruned rather severely. There are several training systems used. The two most common are the vertical trellis and the overhead arbor. Both of these are satisfactory in the home planting if kept well-pruned.

Of the many variations of the vertical trellis, the single-trunk, four-arm, Kniffin system is the most popular. Posts are set 15 to 20 feet apart and extend 5 feet above the ground. Two wires are stretched between the posts, the lower being about 2 1/2 feet above the ground and the upper, at the top of the posts. The vine is set between the posts and trained to a single trunk with four semipermanent arms, each cut back to 6 to 10 inches in length. One arm is trained in each direction on the lower wire.

During annual winter pruning, one cane is saved from those that grew from near the base of each arm the previous summer. This cane is cut back to about ten buds. The fruit in the coming season is borne on shoots developing from those buds. Select another cane from each arm, preferably one that grew near the trunk, and cut it back to a short stub having two buds.

This is a renewal spur. It should grow vigorously in the spring and be the new fruiting cane selected the following winter. All other growth on the vine should be removed. This leaves four fruiting canes, one on each arm, with eight to ten buds each, and four renewal spurs, one on each arm, cut back to two buds each.

The same training and pruning techniques may be effectively used in training grapes to the arbor system. The only difference is that the wires supporting the arms are placed overhead and parallel with each other instead of in a horizontal position. Overhead wires are usually placed 6 to 7 feet above the ground.

If an arm dies, or for any reason needs to be replaced, choose the largest cane that has grown from the trunk near the base of the dead arm and train it to the trellis wire. To renew the trunk, train a strong shoot from the base of the old trunk to the trellis as though it were the cane of a new vine. Establish the arms in the same manner as for a new vine, and cut off the old trunk.

Pruning may be done anytime after the vines become dormant. In areas where there is danger of winter injury, pruning may be delayed until early spring. Vines pruned very late may bleed excessively, but there is no evidence that this is permanently injurious.

Hope this information paints a picture for you so you know how to go about pruning your grapes. Hope you have a terrific harvest!

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