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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