Fruit growing

How and when to prune grapevines

Last updated on March 23rd, 2022

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If you are growing or considering growing grapes, you need to make sure that you give them every advantage and a big part of that includes properly pruning them. Pruning grapes should be done at regular intervals and you can rely upon multiple pruning methods. You can choose which method you prefer based on where you are growing your grapes and how you want them to be structured.

When to Prune Grapes

The best time to prune grapes is the beginning of winter, and the beginning of winter should be your main pruning season. However, bear in mind that your grapes will need regular maintenance in the form of minimal pruning throughout the growing season so that they can remain as productive as possible.

Pruning Grapes

There are two main types of pruning.

  1. Guyot pruning method
  2. Rod and Spur (Cordon) pruning method

Either system can be effective for dessert grapes or wine grapes, grown indoors or outdoors. With grapes, you will need to properly prune them and train them, and do so at regular intervals so that they can produce high yields and remain under control structurally.

Guyot pruning method

This method is typically used for grapes that are grown outdoors. This system has you form one or two main fruiting arms that grow out of the main stem. This method is usually used for commercial growers but home gardeners can easily set the system up as well.

The RHS has a good guide on using this method that you can read here and will find helpful

Rod and Spur (Cordon) System

This method is reserved for grapes that are grown indoors in greenhouses or those that are being trained against a wall, pergola or fence, and is the go-to method for most home gardeners.

RHS also has a good guide on using the rod and spur method which you can read here

Regular Maintenance

When to prune

As mentioned, early winter is the perfect time for pruning because it reduces the risk of your vine bleeding sap and becoming weak. If you prune any other time of the year you will weaken your grapevines and this will negatively influence the yield you get. The rest of the year, however, you can train your shoots and pinch out new shoots, and thin your fruit as necessary so that you get bigger grapes by reducing the number of grapes on each vine.

Supporting structures against a wall or inside a greenhouse

No matter where the grapevines are being grown they will need some sort of support system. If you are growing your grapes against the wall or inside of a greenhouse (which most people in the UK do) you can use wires stretched horizontally along the wall you are using or tied between the posts in your greenhouse.

The wire should be 3mm in diameter so they can support the weight of heavy grapes. You should space it out about 30cm apart. You can thread the wire specifically through vine eyes and screw it into the structure or simply clip it onto existing bars in your greenhouse to form the support.

Supporting structures for grapes grown in the ground

If you are growing them in the ground you should construct some sort of post and wire support system using timber posts driven into the ground and the same galvanised wire used in between the posts. The posts should be driven 45cm into the ground or until they are very stable and spaced about 4 metres apart. You can attach the first two wires about 40cm and 55cm above the soil with all subsequent wires at 30cm intervals the rest of the way up.

By using the system most appropriate for your growing location, you can prune annually to keep the structure in shape, literally and figuratively, and then prune throughout the season for maintenance purposes, enjoying ample yields of grapes.

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