pruning grapes Archives

Pruning Grapes – Sherman’s Vineyard

Pruning grapes is not that hard!

If you train your grape vine the correct way from day one, then it will make the task of pruning grapes much easier.

With this article, I will proof to you that pruning grapes is easy and will also show you the correct way of pruning grapes on an arbor or pergola.

I received the following email from Sherman:

Pruning Grapes On An Arbor

pruning grapes

Hi there, Attached is a photo of my vine structure. In the photo, the red line represents the stem from the ground to the wire, the yellow lines represent the 2 arms that forked off from the stem, and from the yellow lines (arms) there are several vines that extend out from the fence. I would like to know if and where I should prune the vines as it is getting close to spring.
– Should I not prune and leave as it is in the photo?
– Should I prune back to the arms that run along the fence?
This will leave the red and yellow lines.If you need more information, please ask
I hope going by the photo I am doing things right, fingers crossed :)Thanks in advance
Sherman (member of the Complete Grape Growing System)

First of all; Sherman you did a great job training the grape vine on the arbor – well done.  From the picture, you guys can see how he developed the horizontal arm first and then used the laterals to cover the canopy of the arbor.  For those of you who didn’t watch the video about training a grape vine on an arbor, should do it before reading on – here’s the link (it will open in a new window)

Okay, so let’s get down to business and discuss Sherman’s questions about pruning grapes.

The first thing you need to understand is that pruning grapes the correct way, is one of the key elements to your success.  Without properly pruning grapes, the grape vine will not produce the desired crop and will most probably not cover the arbor the way you like.  I’ve seen this many times in my 20+ years since I started growing grapes.  One of the biggest mistakes I see with pruning grapes, is that new grape growers are afraid to prune hard (as is Sherman).

To properly structure a grape vine, you need to “force” the grape vine to grow the way you want it to and the only way to do that is to train the grape vine during the growing season and to prune it during the dormant season.  When pruning grapes that are older that 4 years, you will remove between 70% – 90% of the previous year’s wood!

If we look at Sherman’s grape vine, you will see that he trained the grape vine with a trunk (vertical) and two arms to each side (along the width of the arbor)  – he did a great job doing that, didn’t he?  From the horizontal arms, lateral shoots developed which he trained on the trellis wires that cover the arbor.

pruning grapes

pruning grapes

Now if Sherman wants to do this right, he will have to remove some of the lateral canes on the arbor, otherwise his canopy will be very compact the coming growing season which can lead to diseases, unfruitfulness and will make summer manipulations (suckering, leave pulling etc.) much harder.

There are normally two reasons why we grow grapes on an arbor:

  1. to provide shade and to look good (on a stoop)
  2. for the grapes

In Sherman’s case, I think it is both, so we will prune the grape vine to cover the pergola (which will look nice in summer) and to have some grapes as well.

To do that we will develop the structure of the vine like this.

pruning grapes

Pruning grapes:

On the horizontal arms, we will prune some renewal spurs which can be used to renew the grape vine in the future.  In other words; we will prune some of the canes back to two buds (like explained in the Complete Grape Growing System and in the pruning grapes article on my blog) The red lines represent the canes that will cover the canopy.  Each of these canes (red lines) should be spaced more or less 20 inches apart.  This will ensure that the new growth will cover the whole canopy with enough space or room for lateral growth.

When you look at the arbor from above, it should look something like this:

pruning grapes

If possible, the length of the canes should be long enough to reach the second last horizontal wire of the arbor.  If the canes are not long enough, then prune it back to where the diameter of the cane is the same as size of a pencil.

I hope this will help some of you to prune grapes the correct way.  Remember; pruning grapes and training grapes is very important.

Take care and good luck! :-)


Let me take you by the hand and walk you through every step of growing and pruning grapes.

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pruning grapes

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Summer Pruning Grape Vines

Summer Pruning Grape Vines – The Forgotten Growing Season Manipulation!

Hi friends,

I hope you are all doing well.  Today I want to share with you a really important aspect of growing grapes: summer pruning grape vines!

As you probably know by now (or will soon find out, if you are new to this); there is more to growing grapes than simply watering and feeding your grape vines.  If you are serious about growing grapes and if want to be successful grape growers, then you need to learn more about what it takes to produce good, consistent, grape crops and today we look at summer pruning grape vines – a manipulation so many grape growers simply don’t do!

Summer pruning grape vines is where you will remove unnecessary green shoots or part of shoots from the grape vine during the active growing season.  The most important reason why we do summer pruning is to improve sunlight penetration into the grape vine as well as to improve airflow through the grape vine.

Proper sunlight penetration and airflow in a grape vine will improve the coloring, fruitfulness and disease control.

Summer Pruning Grape Vines – the 3 different methods

1.  Summer pruning grape vines – Removing extra shoots (suckering) and removing water shoots

What looks like a grape vine bud, is actually three buds in location (composite bud).  It sometimes happens that not only the primary bud develops, but the secondary and/or tertiary bud also develops.  Summer pruning grape vines or suckering, is where we remove the shoots that developed from the secondary and tertiary buds.  The reason why we do remove these buds, is to allow only the primary shoots to use the available water and nutrients.

summer pruning grape vines


summer pruning grape vines



Water shoots are shoots that grows from the framework (arms and stem) of the grape vine.  These shoots normally will not produce grapes and will only compact the grape vine canopy.  When we summer pruning grape vines, you need to remove these shoots except if you want to create a new pruning location for future spur pruning (see the grape growers guide).

2.  Summer pruning grape vines – Removing lateral (side) shoots

On each shoot, there are numerous buds that can also produce shoots.  These buds are situated between the leave stalk and the shoot itself and should be removed if your grape vine is too compact.  For the members of the Complete Grape Growing System – remember; it’s important to understand this when you train a young grape vine.

summer pruning grape vines

3.  Summer pruning grape vines – Opening up the canopy by cutting shoots to shorter lengths.

Close to harvest, I normally open up the canopy of my vineyards to allow more sunlight to penetrate the grape vines.  Don’t do this too early if you live in a climate where sunburn on grapes often occur.  Once the grape vines start to turn color, you can go ahead and open up the canopy.

summer pruning grape vines - crimson seedless

summer pruning grape vines

With the trellis I use (gable trellis), I simply prune the shoot-ends to leave a 1 to 2 foot “tunnel” where the sun shines through – this will dramatically improve coloring of the grapes (especially red and black varieties).  For sure, summer pruning grape vines will differ for other trellis systems, but I think you get the idea.

summer pruning grape vines Canopy pruned

summer pruning grape vines – open canopy

Okay, so I hope you understand that summer pruning grapes vines is important and remember, this MUST be done to ensure healthy, properly colored grapes like in the picture below

summer pruning grape vines

Crimson Seedless ready for harvest


Want PROOF that summer pruning grape vines really makes a difference? 

Then read Lisa’s email below

Hi Danie,

I just wanted to say thank you for your very clear instructions for tending my grape vines. I have grown them on a pergola for many years and they just rambled to the point where the concord grapes stopped producing entirely. The other two grape vines had many clusters with very small berries.

This year, I was able to harvest the biggest grape berries I have ever grown thanks to the summer pruning technique which seems to have been omitted in every pruning manual I have ever read, except yours! Here is a picture of my crop…it has been so long that I have forgotten the names of the grapes, but I have red, green and concord vines.

summer pruning grape vines

Not only did I have lovely grapes growing, but I was able to make a lovely wine from it all; the old fashioned kind, made with water, grapes, sugar and yeast and nothing else. Next year, the grapes should be even bigger! Thanks again for all your great advice on summer pruning grape vines!

Lisa P…….. (not displayed to protect her privacy)

Your Canadian friend

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summer pruning grape vines

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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,



P.S.:  Did you like this article?  For more expert advice like this,  join The Complete Grape Growing System today and start growing your grape vine like a seasoned PRO!

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How To Grow Grapes In Your Backyard

How to Grow Grapes – Here is a short summary of how to grow grapes in your backyard.

This summary of how to grow grapes will set you on the right tracks when choosing the site, how to prune, what varieties to grow and so forth.  This is only a summary of how to grow grapes, and not a complete guide – there is so much more to growing grapes than simply planting and pruning a grape vine.  If you want to learn how to grow grapes, then start here and broaden you search.  The my grape vine blog is for on “how to grow grapes” articles – enjoy!

A summary of how to grow grapesHow to Grow Grapes – The History

Drinking wine is a pleasure that has been enjoyed since almost 4000BC. The science of viticulture, or grape cultivation, began with the need to domesticate wild vines. Viticulturists needed to breed domestic plants with higher fruit yields, since wild grapes invest little energy in fruit production. Wild grapes were also dioecious, meaning that there are male and female versions of the plant. Early viticulturists selected a rare mutant vine with perfect flowers (that is, functional male and female components) to ensure all their vines bore fruit. Today many varieties of common species of grapes are cultivated and used for wine production and that is why so many people from all around the globe want to learn how to grow grapes.

How to Grow Grapes – Soil preparation

If you really want to succeed in how to grow grapes, then you need to select the correct planting site. Grapes can grow in a wide variety of soil types and pH ranges, certain conditions induce better growth and yields. First, grapes prefer well-drained and slightly acidic soil. The best pH is typically between 6.0 to 6.5, but grapes will grow in soils with pH ranging from 5.5 to 7.5. If your soil is a little basic, you can add in sulfur or ammonium sulphate to decrease the soil pH. Ideally, grapes should be planted on a south-facing hillside, although in a home garden you may not have this luxury. You should choose a site in your garden that receives full sunlight – grapes do not like the shade. You’ll need to ensure that the soil at your selected site is worked over well before planting to remove any perennial weeds. Addition of peat moss or manure to the site will also help to improve soil quality.

How to Grow Grapes – Planting methods

The way you plant your grape vines is really important for their health and productivity. Vines need to be planted approximately eight feet apart in rows that are between eight and ten feet apart. If you are planting on a sloped site, ensure that the rows run perpendicular to the slope. If your site is exposed to a strong prevailing wind, orientate your rows in the direction of the wind to minimize damage.It’s preferable to choose one- or two-year-old, dormant, bare-root vines from a reputable provider. Soak the roots of the vines for several hours prior to planting. When planting, ensure that the hole is slightly larger than the root system of the plant and that the vines are set at a depth equivalent to the one they grew in at the nursery. If your vines are grafted, ensure that the grafting union is approximately two inches above the soil. Once you have planted the vines, you’ll need to remove all but the most vigorously growing cane and cut this back to just one or two buds.

How to Grow GrapesTraining your grape vines

To facilitate cultivation, harvesting, pest control and to maximize yield, grapes are trained to a specific system. There are many different training systems, however the single curtain and four- or six-cane Kniffin systems are most suitable for home gardeners. The four-cane Kniffin system trains four fruiting canes to two trellis wires whilst the six-cane Kniffin system trains six canes to three wires. The six-cane system is best for less vigorous grape varieties. Using the single curtain system, the main trunk of the vine is attached to a horizontal wire approximately six feet above the ground. Two cordons (extensions of the main trunk) grow along the wire to the left and the right of the trunk, with five or six fruiting canes on each cordon.

How to Grow Grapes – Pruning

One very important aspect of how to grow grapes is pruning.  Annual pruning of your vines will be necessary to ensure optimum yield and sufficient vine growth to produce next year’s crop. The best time for pruning is late Winter or early Spring, during the vine’s dormant phase. You’ll need to keep a few things in mind when pruning; fruit is borne on one-year old canes, the most productive of which are between 0.25 and 0.30 inches in diameter. The most productive buds occur in the middle of the cane, so it is best to prune canes to between eight and 16 buds. New farmers may find the advice of an experienced viticulturist helpful.

How to Grow Grapes – Harvesting

Harvesting should occur when the grapes are fully ripe. Color isn’t always a reliable indicator of maturity, so taste-testing is essential! Cut the grape clusters from the vine with a sharp knife and handle the grapes by the stems. Grapes do not handle or store well, so enjoy the fruits of your labor as soon as possible!

This is only a summary of how to grow grapes. For a more complete program that will show you how to grow grapes in simple layman’s terms, and much more helpful explanation, you need the get YOUR copy of the Complete Grape Growing System – Click Here

Have a grape day and thanks for sharing this “How To Grow Grapes” article on the social network for others to see.


The Grape Guy

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