Let’s say you succeeded in getting your new grape vine to reach the top trellis wires the previous season; now what?  What are the goals for the second year of growing a grape vine. 

As mentioned in a previous article, the goal for year one is to establish the grape vine, develop a strong root system and training the grape vine to the trellis wires.  In year two, we will start to construct the framework or cordon of the grape vine.

Constructing the framework of the vine is one of the most important aspects of training a grape vine, as this will be the permanent structure of the vine from which canes and spurs will be pruned.  These canes and spurs will be the fruit bearers for your grape vine.  It will also be the area where you will do most of the pruning in the future and from which you will renew the grape vine as well. 

What is the framework (also known as arms or cordons)?

From the main stem that grows straight up from the ground, in spring, new shoots will develop from buds in the canopy area (where the trellis wires are).  These shoots will laterally cover the trellis wires, and will look like a fishbone; a main vertical structure with laterals developed sideways.

 

 

Your goal is to cover as many of the trellis wires during this growing season, so you will have enough canes to choose from during the pruning season.  These canes will be pruned to arms or cordons; normally 2, 4 or six, depending on the trellis system you use.  As explained in the Complete Grape Growing System, the gable trellis system I construct and use, although a bit more expensive than the well known kniffen systems or two and three wire systems, is a very versatile trellis.  It allows you to spread the shoots evenly among the wires and will exposes the leaves of the vine to the much-needed sunlight much more efficiently.

Developing the framework of the grape vine is an ongoing process during year two and three of growing a grape vine.  After you have covered the wires of the trellis in the second growing season, the leaves will fall off during winter, exposing the canes that needs to be pruned.  If you decided to have say for example 4 arms, then you need to prune these four arms back to 6 to 8 buds and tie it to the trellis wires.

It is important to not leave enough room for shoots to develop from the arms during the upcoming growing season.  Don’t try to construct too many arms on a small canopy;  there should be at least  500 mm or 20 inches between two arms, otherwise the grape vine will get too compact in years to come.  This will allow proper airflow through the vine and will also allow the sunlight to penetrate the vine – important for fruitfulness.

Constructing the lower arms of the grape vine first, before you will start to develop the upper arms.  Both can be developed during the second year of growing your grape vine if your grape vine grew well enough.  However, the bottom arms are your main concern at this stage.  NEVER try to develop the upper arms before the lower arms.  A grape vine tends to neglect basilar growth.

I hope this article gave you some insight on developing the framework during year two of growing a grape vine.

As I always, say:  “Develop a poor structure and you will pay the price!”

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