Pruning a California wine grape vineyard

How to Prune Grapevines

Growing grapes is not an easy process. It’s one that takes a lot of skill, time, and attention; but, if you do it right, you’ll have a fruit on your hands that’s unlike any others. But, in order to properly cultivate these little fruits, you have to make sure to prune them correctly, you need to know how to prune grapevines.

Like most plants, grapes require pruning to stay strong and have ample room for growth. Pruning a plant like grapes requires you to be careful and delicate, though, it’s more than doable for home-grown gardeners. Minnetonka Orchards will teach you everything you need to know about pruning your own grapevines.

When to Start Pruning

First, it’s important to establish just when you want to start pruning your grapevines. Most horticulturists suggest starting pruning in the spring, around March. Any time between late February and early April should be fine for pruning your grapevines.

You want to make sure not to prune them any later or earlier than this as it can severely damage the plant’s buds and even ruin sugar content. Be careful and diligent about pruning times, and make sure this isn’t a step you skip during cultivation. 

Summer pruning grapes is also a popular process depending on what you’re using your grapes for. Pruning grapes during this time of the year allows for extra sunlight to soak into the buds, enhancing color and helping to prevent bacteria. This is ideal for plants that usually produce large batches. 

Tools to Prune

Thankfully, you’re only going to need a few tools to prune your grape vines properly. One of the most important tools is a high-quality pair of garden pruners. Garden pruners, also known as shears, are the handheld clippers designed specifically for working with plants, leaves, sticks, and stems. 

You also might want to wear a nice pair of gloves to prevent getting stuck, as well as a little bucket to collect any material you trim off. This makes for easy cleanup and effortless pruning. If you have a compost bin that you usually use for fruit trimmings or food scraps, this is a great bucket to use–you can just compost the scraps anyway!

If your plants are growing up high, you may want to invest in a small stool or ladder to make reaching the plants easier. This is great for safety and accessibility, no matter who you are. 

Step-by-Step Instructions How To Prune Grapevines

How To Prune Grapevines - Man Pruning a Grapevine

1. Locate Outliers

Your first step to pruning your grapevine is to look for stems or leaves that are obviously growing out of place. 

These will be stems that don’t have any fruit bunches on them, and they’re typically quite thin. Branches like these are only preventing sunlight from getting to your grapes, so these are ones you’re going to want to cut back.

In general, you really only want one set of leaves covering your bunch of grapes. Any more than that is too much protection and causes issues during growth and cultivation. 

Be careful when cutting back these excess leaves, ensuring that they’re not necessary and you’re only cutting them back to their thick points. Don’t cut off the branch entirely as this can affect your grapevine’s growth as well. 

This will take some time, but make sure you’re thorough with your trims. This will do so much for your grape plants in the long run. 

2. Trim Back Non-Producing Vines

At the start of your grape’s cultivation process, having some non-producing vines helped protect your grapes from weather and pests. 

However, now that they’re more mature and getting ready to grow bigger, they no longer need these extra vines. Search for any vine, wrapped in the trellis or not, that’s not producing any buds. Then, carefully untangle it from the others and trim near the thickest point.

Vines that produce grapes are quite easy to spot, making non-producing ones clear throughout the other vines. Even if they only have a teeny-tiny bunch, they’re probably not worth keeping. Trim back any non-producing or poor-producing vines that might be getting in the way.

Not only does this help give the grapes more sun, but it also increases airflow, too. This goes the same for excess leaves. (Plus, if you don’t feel just getting rid of your plants, you can add these grape leaves in your compost.)

3. Open the Canopy!

Depending on your climate, you’re going to want to ensure that your plants are getting the airflow they need. Without proper airflow, grapes can grow excess moisture which can hold bacteria and result in inedible plants. 

On the other hand, if you live somewhere that has intense sunlight or is high in elevation, make sure your plants have enough coverage to keep them from getting sunburnt. (Yes, your grapes get sunburned, too.)

So, during this step, you’re going to want to take your side roots and trim them back to shorter lengths. These shorter lengths allow for better airflow and increased sunlight for your maturing buds.

As your buds continue to mature, keep a close eye on them. Soon, their colors will truly enhance and they’ll become even larger and juicer. Shriveling berries or browning berries are both a sign of too much sun or too intense of temperature, so watch them closely to ensure this kind of change doesn’t happen. 

Cutting White Grapes From The Vine

Now Start Pruning! 

Now that you have all the steps, tools, and knowledge you need to start pruning your grapes, the only thing that’s left to do is actually start the pruning process. 

Again, this step is crucial in the healthy growth and cultivation of your grapes, so you must do this with care and precision. Think deliberately about the leaves you’re trimming, how far down you’re trimming them, and how much coverage you’re leaving your grapes with. 

In case you have any other questions about growing your grapes, or even just about grapes in general, Minnetonka Orchards is here to help. For practically anything you’d want to know about grapes, apples, or other fruits, check out our helpful blog. 

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