Pruning Grape Vines

Spur vs Cane Pruning

Pruning grape vines to promote healthy growth. How to know if you should cane or spur prune your vine? Instructions for spur and cane pruning.

Dead canes, or an overabundance of growth can take away nutrients from the healthy parts of your vine.

Picture of grapes growing on a conservatory ceiling.

Grape vine pruning is generally done in the off-season which is January to March. This is the best time of year to prune, as this is when the vines are dormant (sleeping).

Pruning grapes really isn’t difficult if you keep up with it regularly and start it correctly.

Find the strongest shoot and stake it so that a straight trunk will form. This will be the foundation of your vine.

The most productive pruning methods can be divided into two categories: cane pruning and spur pruning.

Cane Pruning Grape Vines

Grape vines growing in a vineyard.

To cane prune–the more difficult of the two methods–select two to four new fruiting canes per vine. Cut each one back to 15 buds. For wine grapes, leave 20 to 30 buds per vine. Table grapes can have 50-80 buds per plant.

Leave a spur cane near each selected fruiting cane with one or two buds on it. These spur canes will produce the fruiting canes for the following year and keep the vine fruiting close to the trunk. All other canes should be removed.

Some grapes must be pruned this way, such as the popular Thompson seedless (used to make California raisins and a popular table grape).

There is a rule of thumb (green thumbs?) among horticulturists that if you don’t know if you should cane or spur prune, try spur pruning.  If you don’t get fruit forming from shoots off the spurs, then you should be cane pruning.

Spur Pruning Grapes

Organic grapes growing in the Mediterranean.

To spur prune, cut back each of the main canes to leave two or three bud spurs, four to six inches apart. Leave no more than 80 buds per vine. Remove all other one-year-old wood.

The more shoots, the denser the branches and denseness in branches will not help the fruit to grow to its full capacity. Your goal is to make sure that there is a lot of space and light coming through the vine.

So, the key to pruning grape vines is to allow sunlight to touch all parts of the grape plant, especially the fruit buds. Pruning grapes also promotes air flow throughout the grape vine which lessens the chance of molding during rainy weather.

We’ve all seen what happens to grapes that sit damp for a day or two.

If you follow these methods of pruning, your vines will bring forth delectable grapes.

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