Pruning is an essential practice for the overall health of the grapes. It is necessarily the practice of removing dead, diseased, old, and marginally productive wood to encourage the production of new fresh fruit-bearing wood where future crops would form. Another essential job of pruning is to open up the plant to the penetration of sunlight and air. Regular pruning is also vital for controlling grape canes as, without it, there would be an uncontrolled, non-uniform growth of the cane which would make it very difficult to manage the vines. Picture it like your hair in the morning, unruly and disordered.
For those of you who have been living on Mars until now, cane is a mature shoot of the vine when it has shed its leaves.
So, strong knowledge of grape pruning is essential if you want to up your game in grape production. NO, you don’t have to do a PhD in Gardening or farming to be able to do it. You just need to follow this simple ‘How to Prune Grape Vine’ guide and you’re good to go!
Practical Steps to Start Pruning Grape Vines Home Garden:
When Should You Prune Grape Vine?
This is the first question that comes to mind. There is no one-word answer as the time for pruning depends on several factors. The general rule is to start pruning when the vine goes into the dormancy period. However, don’t start pruning too early when there are still green leaves present and the vines are photosynthesizing. Pruning the vines before they become completely dormant can affect their ability to go dormant which would increase the likelihood of cold injury. So, wait for the vine to become fully dormant before pruning.
If the vines are to be pruned in early winter, a greater number of buds should be left as insurance for cold injury.
Don’t prune when it’s actively raining as this could make the vine susceptible to infections.
How to Prune Grape Vine in Winter?
Most of the pruning and training of the vine is done in the winter when the vine is essentially dormant. So, most of the pruning essentials are discussed in this portion.
Here are some tips before you start pruning your grape vine. First of all, by all means, do not pluck or break branches when pruning the grape vine, doing so would severely damage the plant instead. To properly do your pruning, make sure to use some equipment instead. Secondly, when using some tools for pruning such as shears or scissors, make sure that they are cleaned and sanitized before use. Doing so would avoid spreading some diseases across the plant, and this is especially important when you go prune from branch to branch. Finally, make sure to properly follow the instructions to ensure that you have as much yield as possible.
Training system and Pruning
The vine cannot be left to grow unattended. Its growth is kept in check to ensure just the right balance between the foliage and the fruits so that there is enough greenery to assist photosynthesis without excessive shading which could hinder the fruit ripening. This is known as vine training and it is essential for quality production of grape.
How you would prune your vine depends on the training system which was adapted during the first two years of vine growth. So, this information has much importance for us who are trying to learn how to prune grape vine.
There are two basic systems of training adopted by viticulturists: Head Trained System and Cordon Trained System.
Head Trained System
In this system of vine training, the vine is trained to a wooden stake. Vine is tied to the stake with the help of a cloth, wire or some other sturdy yet flexible material. The bigger the length of the stake, the more the yield as shoots can grow more. Generally, the stake is 3-4 ft above the soil surface. There are certain steps that need to be followed in order to head train the plant the right way.
- Training of a vine starts at the plantation stage. Plant the vine as a single shoot and cut it back to three buds.
- Vine would start to grow, and new shoots would emerge from the ground. When these shoots become 8 to 12 inches long, choose the best shoot. The shoot that we choose should be coming from the old stem, and not from the ground. Tie this shoot to a stake at the bottom and the top and you have the base of your trunk. Easy, wasn’t it?
- Keep the shoot tied up throughout its first summer to keep it as straight as possible as this shoot would be your permanent trunk.
- When trained shoot reaches about 18 inches above the stake, the shoot must be cut at the top of the stake. This is to get the desired pencil diameter (5/8 inches) size of the trunk just above the stake.
- Cut should be made on the first bud just below the top of the stake and the cut should be made in a diagonal to retain the swelled portion of the node.
- Remove the lateral growth from the main trunk.
During the first summer, there are now a number of shoots that have emerged out of the main trunk. Now, you must choose the pruning system during the dormant season (winter).
There are two common pruning systems adopted for head trained grape vines: spur pruning and cane pruning.
Spur Pruning is based on the principle that only the wood from the previous year produces further growth. In spur pruning, the top 5 to 8 shoots are retained and the remaining are gotten rid of. These shoots form the initial spur positions and will be pruned to two buds in the following year. Those buds will grow more shoots and those shoots will again be pruned to two buds. As additional spurs are retained at the top, the lowest ones can be removed to prevent congestion. In a few years, the desired radial look of spurs, at the level of the top of the stake, will be attained.
In cane pruned systems, new canes are used as fruiting canes each season. Two or three of the canes that emerged from the trunk are tied to a wire, in both directions, which is at the level of the head of the trunk. A few canes near the base of the selected canes are pruned to a spur with one or two buds. These are the replacement spurs and are used to select new canes the next season.
Cordon Trained System
The cordon trained system is an extension of the head-trained cane-pruned system where the original fruiting canes are retained as permanent canes instead of replacing them in the following season.
Common pruning practice associated with Codon Trained System is Spur Pruning. The permanent canes known as cordons grow shoots the next season which are pruned to the spurs with 2 to 3 buds. These buds produce more canes. Of the shoots from the previous single spur, the spurs closest to the cordons are maintained while the others are gotten rid of.
With this, our ‘How to Prune Grape Vine in Winter’ portion is effectively completed. But we are not done with pruning yet!
How to Prune Grape Vine in Summer?
Summer Pruning is basically just maintenance. In summer, typically around the start of July, the vineyard should be checked for any diseased leaves or shoots, unwanted lateral shoots and overgrowth. If any of these occur, you need to get rid of these troublemakers as they could affect our grapes quality and quantity. Extra foliage which may contribute to shading of the grapes is gotten rid of as well. Despite not being comprehensive as in the winter season, the viticulturists must have this essential knowledge of how to prune grape vines in summer to make sure that all the yield goals are met without any problems.
Now you have all the information you need to start pruning grape vines home garden of yours.
There is a lot of information out there on ‘How to prune grape vine’ but unfortunately, most of it is too advanced or too complex for an amateur to understand. Most of the time when someone looks up information on this topic, he feels completely overwhelmed by all of those complex terms. So, instead of wasting hours on the research, he chooses the easier option. That’s right! He drops the idea altogether.
To address this issue, we have thoroughly looked into the subject and have compiled all the necessary information, which may be required for pruning, into this single article so that even a total beginner could understand it.
Whether you would take advantage of this easy-to-follow guide or not, is up to you. I have done my part, the ball’s in your court now.