June 9, 2008 · Updated 7:29 PM
Shady, carefree bowers of dappled sunlight and abundant juicy fruit for fresh eating, wine making or juice are all benefits of a healthy grapevine.
On the other hand a fruitless jungle which is the result of no pruning, or leafless branches due to bad pruning at the wrong time can also be significant.
The fact of the matter is that grape vines need pruning and will not do well if ignored.
Even if you only want leafy cover for an arbor, it is important to establish a permanent framework to prevent the vines exuberant yearly growth from becoming an unmanageable mess.
The sap in grapevines starts running long before there is any sign of bud growth and the amount of sap needed to fuel a mature grapevine is considerable.
If you prune while the sap is running, it will gush out like a fountain, and there is no way to stop it. This alarming development wont necessarily kill the vine, but it will seriously weaken it.
The safest times to prune a grapevine are in winter, while its still fully dormant, and in summer, after it has leafed-out completely and new growth has begun.
Winter pruning is better, mainly because its a lot easier to see what youre doing. January and February are perfect months to prune. Add about six weeks if you live in an extremely cold zone.
Many gardeners are a little nervous when it comes to pruning grapevines they can be such a tangled mess that the job looks more than a little intimidating.
With a clear view in mind of what you want to attain the job becomes easier.
Take a good look at the leafless vine starting at ground level. Imagine that after your pruning is done your vine will look like a capital T.
The stem of the T will be the main stem of the vine. The top of the T will be the two strongest side stems. Everything else will be pruned out.
So now, select the two side stems that you wish to keep and carefully prune out any other shoots or stems that are growing from the main trunk.
If your vine is not supported now is the time to secure the main stem and side stems to your arbor, wire or whatever other support that you may be using.
Once that is done focus your attention on the two top side stems again. If they are overly long they may be nipped at the end to halt growth but mainly you should concentrate on the spur canes that are growing outward from them. Prune each one back to three buds. There, you are done.
Grapevines are extremely satisfying to grow. If you are planning to plant one this season just be sure to select one of the very hardy varieties suited to your Zone, and give careful consideration as to where you want to plant it, for given the opportunity they can put on humongous growth even over one season.
Until next week