bud break Archives

Pruning Grape Vines In Cold Climates

This article will shed some light on how pruning your grape vine can help you to escape or prevent early frost from devastating your upcoming grape crop.

It is not question of IF you should prune your grape vine or not; it is a question of WHEN you will prune your grape vine.

As we all know by now (so I hope); pruning is one of the most important manipulation you as a grape grower needs to do.  Without pruning your grape vine the correct way, you simply cannot expect your grape vine to produce healthy, good-looking grapes; even any grapes at all!

One of the main reasons so many grape growers fail to have a proper grape crop, is their ability to prune the grape vine the correct way.  Now, the question I normally get is:  “What will happen if I don’t prune my grape vine.

Without pruning your grape vine, there will be a huge amount of buds that will sprout in spring – having up to 300 buds on such a grape vine is not impossible.  As you can imagine, for a grape vine to produce energy or carbohydrates to feed all of these buds, will put your grape vine under a huge amount of stress. 

This brings us to what I want to share with you in this article. 

It is a known fact that a grape vine under stress, is much more susceptible to cold damage than a well structured and previously pruned grape vine.

Your grape vine will come out of dormancy, once the average temperature outside rise to about 10 to 12 ºC or 50 to 53 ºF or if you prune your grape vine or use rest breaking agencies like Dormex (a chemical used by commercial grape growers to force the grape vine out of dormancy).

In the northern hemisphere, and where spring frost is a problem, cold damage after pruning your grape vine or after the first signs of new shoot development (bud break), can ruin your upcoming grape crop and therefore you need to protect these buds at all cost.

Bud break on grape vines

Except for having a cold hardy variety, one of the best ways to protect your grape vines from spring frost, is the timing of when you will prune your grape vine and how you will prune your grape vines. 

Pruning too early will result in your grape vine to come out of dormancy earlier, and therefore increasing the chances of spring frost damage.  On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, you don’t want your grape vine to go into bud break with too many buds! 

You must be thinking:  This guy must have gone nuts! How on earth is that possible?  I know, but give me a chance to show you a neat little trick you should be doing if you live in an area with spring frost problems.

It is called “brush cut” or “first prune”:

“Brush cut”, is the process of removing all unwanted canes from the grape vines, leaving only those canes that will be later on pruned to cane bearers or spurs.  This should be done before the buds on the grape vines show signs of swelling (normally about 3 weeks before spring, depending on your climate off course). 

During “brush cut”, the number of buds on the grape vine will be reduced significantly and more carbohydrates will be available to the buds on the fruiting canes of the grape vine.  In same cases, when your grape vines grew very vigorously the previous season, the length of fruiting canes can be pruned back as well, making the number of buds on the vine even less, but I suggest you leave the fruiting canes alone and do not prune them.

Now, once spring is on hand, buds on these fruiting canes will start to swell and drop their scale leaves from the end of the cane (bud break will start from the tip of the canes).  The buds on the base of the cane will remain dormant longer, and once the chances of spring frost is over, you simply prune the canes to the desired length (8 to 12 buds for canes bearers and 3 buds for spurs), even if you have to wait until the buds on the base of the cane opened as well.

Because there are only canes left of the vine that will be used to bear fruit, “brush cutting” will take much less time than normal pruning methods.  Just remember one thing; be careful not to damage the remaining buds once you do “brush cutting”, as the scale leaves that protected the buds will be soft and spongy.

This method of pruning will hugely improve your grape vines resistibility to cold damage and could save your complete grape crop! 

Thanks for reading and I sincerely hope that this article will help you in the future.

Take care,



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Bud break on grapes

I want to share with you a secret many grape growers overlook – and it is the effect bud break has on your grape vine.

What is bud break?

Bud break is when the buds on spurs and canes you pruned during winter (or early spring), breaks open and reveals the new growing point of the shoot that will develop from the bud. Depending on the variety, bud break starts about 2 – 3 weeks before the first growing point of shoots are visible.

Why is a strong, even bud break important?

During winter or early spring we prune our grape vines to form the structure of the vine. Another, even more important, reason we prune is to reduce the amount of buds on each grape vine for a smaller, higher quality grape crop. There are many theories on how many buds to keep per vine, but as a rule of thumb you can use the following method.

To determine the number of buds to leave, use the “30 plus 10” formula.

For the first pound of canes removed, leave 30 buds. For each additional pound, leave an additional 10 buds. For most the training systems, the maximum number of retained buds on a grapevine should be less than 60. As you can imagine, having buds that don’t sprout will reduce your crop size even more and can result in a too small crop, making it an uneconomical grape harvest.

The evenness of your harvest will be determined by the evenness of bud break. If you are a commercial grape grower, you want all your grapes in one vineyard, to be ready for harvest at the same time. This will reduce the amount of time spend in collecting the crop because you don’t have to visit the vineyard three or four times to pick all the fruit.

A strong bud break will not only increase ensure a decent crop size, but also make pruning next year much easier. Some grape varieties that is cane pruned, like Thompson, Crimson for example, tends to sprout more evenly and stronger at the last buds on the cane. The biggest problem grape growers have, when this happens, is that they will not find enough pruning wood next year, to retain the structure and amount of buds for a decent crop size.

Look at the picture from one of the My-Grape-Vine customers. This is a classical example of a grape vine sprouting strongly on the tips of the canes and the basal and first buds have a poor sprout percentage.

How to improve an even, strong bud break.

First of all, I want to share with you a theory I have. If you don’t have to cane prune – don’t cane prune. The only reason why you should can prune is when you grow a veriaty that is unfruitful – period! When you spur prune, you will have a much higher bud break %.

So, choosing your pruning method carefully – this will ensure a decent, sustainable crop, year after year AND prune the correct way.

There are lots of so called pruning secrets available on the Internet, but my pruning system I teach in the Complete Grape Growers Guide, has proven itself over the past decade to be the best and most effective way to prune.

The second theory I have is: Proper sunlight penetration.

A grape vine that is too compact (condensed) will overshadow the shoots and and buds during the growing season and as we all know by now, a grape vine needs sunlight to “ripen” the buds on the shoots. In other words; having a well ventilated, not too compact grape vine will improve the bud break percentage.

Now you may ask yourself the following question. “I have a variety that needs to be cane pruned, and is not too compact, BUT I still get a poor bud break percentage – what do I do?”

I have another trick up my sleeve – luckily!

And it is called: “Hydrogen cyanamide (Dormex)” – please note, it is not cyanide, but cyanamide

Applying Dormex to the grape vine’s buds, one month before bud break will significantly improve the bud break percentage and will also make bud break more even.

The concentrate of which it is applied is 3-5 liters (101 – 169 fluid ounces) per 100 liter (26.4 gallons) water for table grapes and 2 – 3 liter (67 – 101 fluid ounces) /100l water for wine grapes. Be sure to read the product label before applying Dormex.


Dormex irritates the skin, so wear proper gloves when you apply it.

If you live in an area where late frost is a problem, I would advise you to be careful. Why? Dormex will not only improve bud break, but it will advance bud break as well. Some grape growers claims to have advanced their sprouting date by up to 3 weeks. My personal experience tells me that id advance bud break by +- one week. So be careful not to advance the sprouting date of your grape vine by so much, that the danger of cold damage will become a bigger concern.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog, and I hope you understand now why an even and strong bud break is so important. You grape growing success depends on this!

For more proven theories, tricks and grape growing tips, you can get yourself the Complete Grape Growers Guide and grow your grape vine like a PRO!



The Grape Guy