Train a Grape Vine
Taking the time from the start to train a grapevine is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure success and a high fruit yield during the long life of a well-cared-for vine. While it takes three years of training followed by regular pruning and care before you may even see a grape, the bounty that follows such care is rewarding. During those three years your goal is to establish a solid trunk and thriving roots; grapes are not the goal. Even though the continuous care of a grapevine can seem laborious, the end product is truly delicious. Does this Spark an idea?
The First Year
1. Set up your trellis, wire or rail fence before or soon after planting your grapes to create a support. Set a support stake next to or near your new planting if a main portion of your wire system is far away from the plant.
2. Allow the vine to grow after planting through the first spring and summer of year one. Loosely tie the strongest shoot to your support stake to train it upward. Cut away the other vertical shoots. You will also want to remove any flowers and side shoots from your main shoot as well.
3. Look over your main trunk during the winter. Cut the vine, leaving the trunk with only five to ten buds, fewer if the plant appears weak or unsturdy. You should be cutting away the light brown wood but leaving the green, healthy trunk to remain. Trim away any other growth from the vine. While it will feel cruel to cut your plant so extremely, you will see better results because of it.
The Second Year
4. Allow the buds to grow four to six inches long during the spring of year two. Pick the strongest one of these buds to be the continuation of the trunk to run vertically up your support. Look over the other buds and select two to be your first set of horizontal shoots, they should run in opposite directions creating a lowercase “T” shape. Tie these shoots to your lower rail or wire. Trim away any other shoots after you have selected those three.
5. Cut the tip of your trunk once it reaches the top of your posts or fence during the summer of year two. As they grow, select the two strongest shoots at the top and trim away the others. Tie these top arms to your upper fence or wire.
6. Remove any flower or fruit clusters as you see them. Remember, you are working on vine growth and strength still, so you don’t want grapes to form on the plant just yet.
7. Prune away growth from the four arms and the trunk during the winter of year two. This will let the plant focus on strength. The trunk portion of the vine should retain about 10 to 15 buds with each of the four arms having two to four buds each.
The Third Year
8. Continue to prune growth away from just the trunk during the summer of year three. Let the arms grow as they need to and tie them to the supports as they grow longer. The two to four buds that were kept on each of the arms will produce some fruit during year three.
9. When pruning over the winter of year three, leave as many as 30 buds total on the vine between each arm at both the upper and lower wires. Continue to train the vines along your fence, wire or trellis. As spring comes of the fourth year, tying the vines will be easier as sap makes the vine more movable.
10. Follow regular maintenance pruning during each year of growth and continue to do so for the life of the vine. This can be done in a number of ways, so research the pruning style you need for your plants once the vine is established.