It is the time of the year to prune grapevines. It is best to prune them during their dormant stage in the winter, but it is also a good idea to prune them as late in the winter as possible. Pruning them late in the winter leaves less time before the open wounds caused by pruning to naturally heal themselves. During the winter, the vines are dormant and will not heal the wounds caused by pruning. This leaves a slight chance of disease to enter through the wound. Now, it is still better to prune them early in the winter than to wait to long, but to be on the safe side, I like to wait until late in the winter.
There is a lot of information to be found on the internet about pruning your grapevines, but a lot of it is very difficult to follow. I have read and reread dozens of posts about pruning grapevines, and to be honest it was mostly very difficult to follow. Luckily this is our first year, so the pruning this year is rather straight forward.
During the dormant stage after the first year of growth, you are pruning your grapevine more for structural reasons rather than the careful balancing act of producing grapes this year and allowing growth that will produce grapes next year. It typically takes three years to produce grapes from a new grapevine. So the first year, we are just pruning the structure that new growth will come off of the second year, and grape producing vines off of that growth the next year.
Our grapes are growing up the sides of an arbor that is the entrance to our garden. This will be a beautiful sight once it fills out. This is a lot different from the traditional way of growing grapevines. Instead of growing up to trellis and then left and right from the main trunk to make the cordons for the grapes to grow on, they are growing up the side and across the top of the arbor. However, some of the basics are the same.
The goal is to create a strong trunk of the vine with only a few cordons (think limbs) coming off of that trunk. So our grapevine goes up the side of the arbor, then splits off into two branches which instead of going left and right, wind their way up the sides of the arbor near the front and the back of the side of the arbor. We left just enough of these branches to keep them attached at the top for support.
The biggest mistake most people who are new to pruning grapevines make is to not prune enough. Once the structure is in place, feel free to prune away. Up to 90% of the vine should be pruned yearly. We have used these traditional bypass pruning shears for years on our light pruning.
After the first year, it becomes a balancing act of keeping enough vines for grapes this year, and creating growth for vines that will create grapes the following year. Some have called this balancing act as the “art of pruning grapevines”. But I guess that is a blog for next year.