As the new grape grower learns more and more about the grape vine and how to develop a grape vine cordon or arms, they normally face a gigantic task of pruning away hundreds of canes and old wood.

If you have a neglected or overgrown (call it what you want) grape vine, there is only one way to “reconstruct” the grape vine and that is to prune back hard – really hard. The next question I get is: “How hard is really hard?”.

To be honest, you will not like what I am going to tell you now!

If your vine has some kind of structure (usable I must ad), and a relative straight trunk, then you can try and structure the vine from a few one year old canes and remove all the old wood and unusable canes. Even if you have to prune back so that only the trunk and a few canes are kept, that is OK too, because this gives you the opportunity to start all over again – the correct way.

If your grape vine don’t have a usable structure at all and many trunks without usable one year old canes, then it is best to prune back the whole grape vine to one usable trunk and to keep only one healthy cane that you can tie to the trellis or support wire.

The worst case scenario is when your grape vine has no structure at all and no main trunk to speak of, then most of the time it is best to cut off the vine just above ground level. And NO, this will not kill the vine, in fact the vine will probably reach and cover the trellis within one season, because of the vigor from a well developed root system that is all available to the new growth. You might think that I’ve gone mad, I know, but trust me on this.

If you have no clue where to begin and if your vine is a real mess, then cutting the wine back to the ground, is probably the best option for you. Off course your grape vine will not bear fruit next year (or very little fruit), but you can start a new grape vine and train this new vine the correct way. If you have a grafted vine, then you must cut back the vine at least six inches above the graft union – remember this! We allow this 6 inches to prevent the graft union from drying out.

A week or so ago, on the 9th of August to be exact, I posted a blog about Leslie’s grape vine and how she managed to reconstruct her grape vine. I received a few emails from subscribers of My-Grape-Vine asking me how she did that, so I have decided to post the pictures and emails we send eachother: Here we go.

The first picture I received from her asking help.
As you can see, this grape vine (Black Hamburgh) is a real mess.
Notice the multiple trunks and tangled canes all over the place!
Here is the email from her:

“My reason for making enquirers to you was to try and gain information on pruning my vines as I know they are in a bad state, and I have now received your wonderful book as you know and have started reading it and looking at ways to improve my knowledge and my vines. I find the book very easy to understand and would recommend it to other vine growers. I truly value your help to get me started in the right direction.
I was beginning to wonder why you do this service for free and after your comment can only appreciate what help you give me far more than you know.”


From the UK.

My reply to her was the picture below. Now, blogger don’t show the text on the first picture very well so I will explain what I told her.

“Leslie, remove the trunk on the left. It is difficult to see where the canes come from, but what you need to do is prune your vine with 4 to 5 long bearers (canes) and leave 4 to 5 spurs close to the main stem. It should look something like a fish bone when you are done. First, try to restore the trellis as it will make your job a bit easier. Prune the canes 8 to 12 buds long; it looks like your vine is growing way too vigorous.

Email me if you have any questions

Danie”Her reply:

“HI Danie.

Yes the pictures are great and it is something that I wanted to do original but was afraid.

I cannot thank you enough, but will be in your dept?


Hi Danie

Hope you had a great weekend.

I have now trimmed my vine as per your drawing and instruction all that remains is to fix the wires and tie the branches back. I will take a picture for you to see as soon as I am finished.
I had to cut away some dead wood so I am just hoping I have done it all correctly, I’ve no doubt that it will sprout out whatever I have done. I have also put some of the cuttings in a container to see if I can grow a new tree.

my best wishes.


Being afraid to “hard prune” a grape vine is one of the reasons many home grape growers’ grape vines grow out of control.

Well, Leslie pruned her vine as I told her, constructed the trellis and in the end the results were marvelous. I received a further email from her asking why the vine don’t have fruit this year and this was my reply:

“Hello Leslie!

You pruned your vine the correct way don’t worry about that. You will have to remember one thing Leslie – the grapes a grape vine produce, comes from buds on last year’s growth. In your case, your grape vine was very compact and probably no, or little sunlight penetrated the vine during last year’s growing season and could be reason why you don’t have grapes this year.

Now, what I am trying to say is, that the shoots on your grape vine as it grows now, will be much more fruitful and you will probably have a good crop next year. We did some serious reconstructing to the vine, so hopefully this will pay off next year. As you said, the weather also plays an important role in the development of grapes bunches, so Yes, the weather could have influenced the vine as well.

Good luck

Here is what her vine looks like now..

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