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How to Train Your Grape Vines

First year

The goal of first year training is to develop a strong healthy root system and a straight trunk.

  1. Select and prune so the best cane remains to become the "leader."
  2. Tie to a stake or support system.
  3. Take off all but 2-4 of the strongest shoots.
  4. Remove all the flower buds.

Second year

  1. Retain the appropriate number of shoots for the training system.
  2. Remove excess shoots as they develop.
  3. If you choose to help concentrate growth in strong roots and shoots for another year, remove all the flower buds again.

Third year

  1. Do dormant pruning using balanced pruning methods.
  2. Thin flower clusters to a single cluster at each bud to prevent overcropping.
  3. When a "leader" cane reaches the desired height, cut it off diagonally through a bud to stop growth.

How to Create a Grape Trellis

Grape vines need some form of support to keep them off the ground. American grape vines grow in a willowy downward direction, so keep that in mind when choosing a training system. Grapes are trained to fill the structure and not become overgrown. One or two layers of leaves in any area of the canopy are best for flower bud and fruit development. A goal of training systems is to increase sunlight exposure.

The vines adapt to many forms of support-arbors, fences, trellises and latticework.

  • For a few vines, an arbor is suggested; for many vines, a trellis system.
  • A high-wire cordon system is good for downward growing shoots.
  • The Kniffin system works well for beginners because it is easier for pruning the vines than an arbor or trellis.
  • The single curtain cordon system is simple and requires minimal labor. If using wood, choose one that will not rot or require painting or staining such as cedar, redwood, or teak. Chemicals in pressure treated wood can be harmful to the vines. Stakes can be used if no other support is available. Put in the support at time of planting or within the first year.
You can find step-by-step instructions on training and trellis creation from the University of Missouri Extension office.