We prune our beloved plants to create a more lush plant, higher produce yields and to increase the health of plants. Grape vines are no exception.
Keeping the vines pruned keeps them producing higher yields each season, makes the individual bunches of grapes larger, healthier and juicier, and allows air flow and sunlight to penetrate the entire vine allowing the vine to sustain the grape clusters.
There is no exact science to trim grape vines. If you accidentally cut off a branch you wanted to keep, wait a year, and another branch will grow into its place.
Gather Your Tools
For grapevine trimming you will need hand pruners and a pair of gloves (optional).
Decide When to Trim the Vines
Ask four different gardeners when the best time to trim a grapevine is, and most likely you will get four different answers. There are reasons for both summer and winter pruning of grapevines.
The absolute best time to trim personal grapevines is when they need it.
They need air flowing through the leaves, and sunlight hitting the clusters and leaves to produce the best flavor, so begin by pruning the vines to keep them open and not shading themselves with overgrown shoots.
For higher yields make your cut beyond the second bud on the shoot. A shoot is the smaller, pencil width vine which holds the grapes, and a bud is the place where the shoots emerge.
Buds look like leaf or flower buds. Grape clusters grow on last year’s growth, so leaving at least two buds on each shoot will allow the vine to produce the following season.
Cut-away any shoots that are growing straight down or in odd directions, as these won’t receive enough sunlight or air flow to produce healthy fruit, or they may also shade parts of the vine where production is normally higher.
Clip any branches that are growing from anywhere on the vine other than on the cordons.
Cordons are the lateral branches where shoots begin.
Grapevines are very hardy, and they try to make new stems anywhere there is a bud, so you may need to trim extra growth from around the bottom of the vine as well as from the cordons and shoots.
If you accidentally cut more off the plant than you wanted don’t worry. Grape vines are very hardy and can handle it. I have cut the vines completely and started over more than once, and they always come-back stronger than before.