constructing a grape vine Archives

Growing Grapes On A Pergola

Growing Grapes On A Pergola is not that hard if you follow these instructions!

Hi friends,

In the previous post we spoke about summer pruning grapes vines and I showed you a picture I received from Lisa where she is growing grapes on a pergola.  Now, I received quite a few questions regarding the construction of pergolas and about growing grapes on a pergola.

As I said so many times before; growing grapes on a pergola or some sort of trellis is highly recommended, because of the following advantages:

  • It’s much easier to keep the grape vine under control during summer
  • Winter pruning will be much easier, because of an established frame work of the grape vine
  • The leaves of the grape vine are better exposed to the much needed sunlight – better photosynthesis and coloring
  • It allows for more effective summer treatments and spray coverage – less diseases
  • And finally, it will decorate you garden and most probably add value to you property as well!

As so many things in life; there are some disadvantage (con’s) as well:

  • When growing grapes on a pergola, you will have to work with your hands above your head
  • The cost of construction a pergola
  • Manual labor of constructing the pergola
  • And finally; how to train the grape vine to cover the pergola – this is where I come in :-)

1.  Growing Grapes On A Pergola – First Things First

It is recommended that you construct your pergola BEFORE you plant the grape vines.  Once you planted the grape vines, you would want to start training the vines to reach the roof or canopy of the pergola as soon as possible.

There are two very important question you will have to ask yourself before you plant the grape vines.

  1. Will you be growing grapes on a pergola for the grapes as well as for decoration?
  2. Or are you growing grapes on a pergola just for decorating the pergola and not interested in the grapes?

When you are growing grapes on a pergola for decorative purpose only, then choose a variety that will produce no grape – ask your nursery for decorative grapes and not fruit producing grapes.

Constructing a pergola can be a challenge to many, but I think with the right plans, the right equipment and some spare time, anyone who can drill a hole, use a hammer and circle saw can construct one.  This could even be a family project to spend some quality time with the boys (or girls – yes they can help as well!).

Start by planning the project beforehand.  Decide on where you will erect the pergola and what shape and size it will be.  There are free plans available on the internet, but most of the time they are either incomplete, poor quality or very difficult to follow.

2.  Growing Grapes On A Pergola – Planting The Grape Vines

Let’s get back to growing grapes on a pergola, shall we?

When you have constructed the pergola, it’s time to plant the grape vines and start growing grapes on a pergola!

The question remains; what size pergola and how many grape vines to plant?  How vigorous a grape vine grows, depends on many external factors like variety, soil, climate, fertilizer, etc.  For me to give you the exact number of vines per squire feet of canopy is not that easy!

What I can tell you is that, when growing grapes on a pergola, an average vigor variety like Concord, will easily cover an area of round about 32 squire feet arbor space.  Depending how large the pergola is, keep this in mind because planting too many grape vines on a smallish pergola, will make summer treatments and pruning much harder!  Although it will take more time to cover the pergola, I recommend you start with one or two vines for every 64 squire feet – you can always plant more in the future!

After planting the grape vines, you need to train the grape vine to reach the top of the pergola.  When I’m growing grapes on a pergola or on any flat surface, I prefer to use only one training shoot, because this will ensure your grape vine reach the top of the pergola in no time.  When you have achieved this, you will then train the grape vine along the width or the length of the canopy – depending on how many grape vines you plant and where you will plant them.

Important: Remember that when growing grapes on a pergola, you will need to construct a sturdy pergola that will withstand strong winds, snow, rain and the increasing weight of a grape crop.  30 to 50 Bunches of grapes can get quite heavy!

3.  Growing Grapes On A Pergola – Training The Grape Vine

Your goal during the first year of growing grapes on a pergola is to reach the canopy as soon as possible.  You will probably not cover the the surface of the pergola during the first year, but if you train the grape vine the correct year, you will be able to do that in the second year of growing grapes on a pergola.

I made this video for the members of The Complete Grape Growing System, but decided to upload it to a private YouTube channel for you to see – I’ve made a similar video a couple of years ago, and was actually one of the first YouTube videos I made – since then it has been viewed more than 45 000 times – amazing!

Anyway, I think you will get the bigger picture of what to do when you will be growing grapes on a pergola.

4.  Growing Grapes On A Pergola – Summer Manipulations and Winter Pruning

Growing grapes on a pergola is very popular among backyard or home grape growers.  So many of these grape growers fail miserably, because they think that once the grape vine covers the pergola, all is fine – NOT TRUE!

As with any other grape vine; when growing grapes on a pergola you must continue to look after the vines.  Believe me; working on a grape vine that is 6 to 8 feet above the surface of the soil is not very comfortable.  Where I live, the guys with commercial flat roof trellises tells me that the productivity of their farm workers is 50% lower than on normal trellis systems and that is understandable and that is also why so many home grape growers tends to neglect the grapes on a pergola.

Remember to keep on doing summer treatments.  Prune the grape vine EVERY year and prune hard, especially if it is a vigorous growing variety.

Growing Grapes On A Pergola – The Final Thoughts

I am growing grapes on a pergola next to my swimming poolTo sum this up:

– Construct a strong enough pergola BEFORE you plant the grape vine
– Plant the grape vines at strategic points so covering the canopy will be easier but DO NOT   plant too   many grape vines for your pergola size.
– Using proper training techniques when growing grapes on a pergola will ensure you cover the canopy in the second year
– Summer treatments like leave pulling, suckering, removal of water shoots etc. is still important
– Use proper pruning techniques



Thanks for reading this article and I hope you now understand the basics of growing grapes on a pergola.



Rick’s Grape Vines

Hi Grape Friends,

I received this email from Rick, a member of the Complete Grape Growing System.  From the email he send me, it seems like he knows what to do – how to start constructing the framework of the grape vines, however he ran into some difficulties along the way.

By the way, Rick’s grape vines look great, and it’s always a pleasure to assist you guys wherever (whenever 😐 ) I can.

NOTE:  The text in red, are my replies.

Background info:  I live in _________ , Arizona, USA. We live in a desert and summer temps are extreme. Temps of 110-115 degrees (F) are common in July & August. Our growing season is long lasting from March-November. I just got my first grape plants and I’m hoping to get “first year growth” before night time temps get cold in November.

I just got some grape plants and bought your system last week. I’ve modified an existing arbor to accommodate the grapes. The arbor was built to provide mid-day and afternoon shade. I decided to plant grapes there last minute. The plants I was given are very young and some don’t appear to be in very good condition. I have a few questions:(since I took these pictures I’ve pulled the wires tight.)

  1. The vine (training shoot) had no growing point when I got it. It’s long enough to reach the first two wires and in the few days since I planted, the buds have begun to sprout. These are going  to be lateral shoots? correct? This is what I want to be happening, correct?

Rick, that is absolutely correct.  These lateral shoots will one day be the cordon or arms on which you will prune the spurs or canes – depending on what pruning method you will choose. I zoomed in on the picture (below), to show you guys what Rick was referring to.  See those small leafs, they will develop into shoots that must be trained on the horizontal trellis wires.

I’m hoping to get lateral shoots to grow out in the next 8 weeks before temps fall. Do you think I’m too late in the season?

No, I don’t think so.  Since your growing season will be over in November, much growth can still be expected – if you stick to the methods I show in the Grape Growing System.

2. The training shoot in the photo (below) had a nice growing point and had added two inches in just a couple days. This morning it was damaged. Will this give me any lateral shoots this season? Or will I have to prune this back in winter and begin again next spring?

Yes.  See where the red arrow is; this tiny shoot that is developing here, can be used as a new growing point to train your grape vine to the trellis wires.  New lateral shoots below this point will also develop, and can either be removed or used for developing a cordon on the pipe – if that is what you want to do.  Personally I think it is too close to the ground to develop arm here.

3. Photo shows a nice training shoot with good growing point that has added 2+ inches in the few days since I planted it. The first two wires are 8 & 16 inches above the bar. Should I let it grow taller or pinch off the growing point and hope to develop a few lateral shoots in the next 8 weeks?

Rick, as shown in the Complete Grape Growing System, you will have to let the vine grow pass the top wire and then remove the growing point, so lateral shoots can develop.  These lateral shoots will be used to cover the trellis wires.

Thanks for any info/advice you can give me.

I’ve spent hours reading and re-reading your e-book this past week and I’m really excited to begin my little vineyard.


Thanks Rick for sharing your pictures with us.  If there are any questions, feel free to post a comment on this blog post.

Take care everyone



Did you find this tips useful?  The Complete Grape Growing System has many more!

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Pruning a never before pruned grape vine.

For those of you who has a grape vine that has never been pruned before or that was pruned the wrong way; this post will help you allot.

Look at Leslie’s grape vine before she joined My-Grape-Vine and became an owner of the Complete Grape Growers Guide and before I showed her where the structure of the vine should be.

From the picture above, you can see that there is no real structure of the grape vine. Only canes and stems that grew everywhere, without any purpose. Now, grape vines that grow like this, normally bears only fruit on the outer ridges of grape vine, as they are too compact inside, with no or very little sunlight penetrating the grape vine. These vines will never produce optimum crop sizes and will almost always have diseases.

The most difficult thing to teach a newbie grape grower is to construct a well balanced grape vine. It is something you must learn to “see”, before you prune the vine. Seeing or recognizing usable canes and the best place to prune spurs and what canes to leave, is a skill you will have master first, before you will be able to prune the vine the correct way.

What I normally teach people and also the workers on my farm, is to stand in front of the vine, look at the vine and identify and point out the canes you want to use (keep). As I said before, it takes practice, but isn’t difficult once your grape vine has been correctly pruned once.

Now, pruning a grape vine that looks like Leslie’s vine once looked, isn’t easy. You will have to remove lots of canes and even some parts of the old wood and stems – this requires “hard pruning” (as we call it).

Look at the end results below. I am so proud of what she has achieved.

Well done Leslie, your grape vine looks great!

Normally, when you “hard prune”, do not expect to have massive grape crops the following year because you are using canes and spurs that was on the inside of the grape vine didn’t have any sunlight exposure during the growing season and will most probably be unfruitful or very little fruitful.

Your goal should be to construct the vine correctly, let it grow the following growing season (even if it bears little fruit the following year), prune it again and enjoy a good, healthy crop the following year.

I hope you now realize how important it really is to construct your grape vine the correct way.