Pruning a grape vine – where does is come from and why?

Pruning a grape vine dates as far back as 1876, when French viticulturists trimmed their grape vines to keep them in shape, as they grew older.  They learned that without pruning a grape vine, their grape vines grow out of hand and produce smaller crops, with lower grape quality as years go by.


They developed a pruning method, where only a few old canes are removed during winter to keep the basic structure of the vine under control.  The method or style of pruning a grape vine changed quite a bit since then, but the basics of keeping the structure of the vine as small as possible, remains until today.  However, the most important thing they discovered, is that with pruning a grape vine, it will produce the best crops, EVERY YEAR.


Why?  Without pruning a grape vine, the structure of the vine will get bigger and bigger every year, pushing the most active growth to the very end of the vine.  Have you seen a grape vine climbing up trees? 


An “out of control” grape vine produce lots and lots of flower cluster, but seldom produce good quality grapes to wine or table grapes and in the end, no grapes at all.


What most new grape growers don’t know, is that a grape vine produce grapes from buds that was laid down the previous year – in other words, the buds on a green shoots during this year’s growing season, will be the fruit bearers for the next season!


Although there are many reasons for pruning a grape vine, the 4 most important one’s are the following:

     1.  Pruning a grape vine to develop the young grape vines:   

I cannot stress this enough!  The key to having a productive grape vine one day, starts with the training and pruning of pruning a grape vine.  If you grow grapes commercially like I do, you need to get that young grape vine in production as quick as possible and the only way this can be achieved, is knowing how to prune and train that young vine.


This is really the starting point of having a successful, productive vineyard – no matter if you grow one grape vine or a thousand, it is essential that you prune and train the young vine the correct way.


2.  Pruning a grape vine to maintain a proper balance between growth and fruit bearing: 


Incorrect pruning or even no pruning at all, will result in thousands of buts to open in spring.   At first, this will look quite lovely, but eventually, these new shoots will be under-developed and will for sure produce less quantity and quality grapes. 


What not many grape growers know, is that when a bud open in spring and reveals a new shoot, this shoot grows from food stored in the vine the vine during winter and not from nutrients in the soil.  Only when the shoots are about 2 to 5 inches, the roots of the grape vine become 100% active.  Obviously, the more shoots there are, the less food there is for each shoot to develop during the early stages of shoot development – which by the way is the most important stage and that is why pruning a grape vine is so important!


So you haven’t pruned the vine, and it still produced good shoot length, despite the fact there are thousands of new shoots on the vine.  The next critical stage in the development of a grape vine is flowering and fruit set.  During flowering, the grape vine is under a tremendous amount of stress, as the grape vine needs more and more nutrients to maintain the proper physiological activities within the vine.  Once again, it is quite obvious that the more flowers there are, the less nutrients per flower there is – the result; the grape vine will naturally aborts the flowers to save itself and in the end produce strangely grape clusters with low quality grapes.


      3.  Pruning a grape vine to maintain a proper crop size:

Over-cropping is probably the biggest mistake new grape growers make, as they try to grow as many grapes per grape vine possible.  Over-cropping will not only delay the ripening process by a week or two, but will also influence grape quality.  


The more grapes there are on a single grape vine, the more nutrients and basic elements like potassium is needed to maintain a proper balance between fruit development, fruit ripening and keeping the physiological processes intact – this is also the reason why having too many grapes per grape vine, will result in poor coloring of the grapes.


In the end, to produce insane crop sizes, you need to find the point where your grape vine produce optimum number of grape clusters, without negatively influencing the quality of the grapes and pruning a grape vine is the starting point of proper growth vs crop size balance.


      4.  Pruning a grape vine to maintain a proper grape vine structure:

The last, but for sure not the least reason why we prune our grape vines, is to develop and maintain the structure of the grape vine.


Most grape vines nowadays are grown on some sort of supporting object.  Whether it is a pergola, wired fence or trellis system, the maintenance of the structure of the grape vine in this supporting object is very, very important.


Keeping any grape vine in shape is impossible without pruning a grape vine during the dormant season.  There is also something known as “summer pruning a grape vine”, which I will explain how to do in a later article. 


Pruning a grape vine and keeping the cordon (arms) of the grape vine in shape, will not only allow sunlight to penetrate the vine, which on the other hand is needed for disease control and fruit ripening, but will also make future pruning, a breeze.


I hope you catch my drift with this “pruning a grape vine” article.  Without pruning a grape vine, or let me say, proper pruning, you will most likely fail to have great quantity and quality grapes.

Learn the art of pruning a grape vine right now!

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pruning a grape vine

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