How to Prune Old and Overgrown Grapevines

by Brian Barth

Grapes (Vitis spp.) are large deciduous vines with a graceful growth habit and heavy drupes of fruit that ripen in late summer. Depending on the variety, they can be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10. The vines can grow to an enormous size and live for more than 100 years. Annual pruning is necessary to maintain size and stimulate fruit production, but even old, overgrown vines can be brought back to form with some heavy pruning and training.

Items you will need

  • Work gloves
  • Hand pruners
  • Bypass pruners
  • Pruning saw
  • Rubbing alcohol
Step 1

Cut back the entire grape vine, leaving only the main trunk and two of the largest vines that branch from the main trunk at any point between 2 and 4 feet from the ground. This will not harm the plant, but is necessary to re-establish a good form.

Step 2

Prune back the two remaining vines that stem from the main trunk to about 6 or 8 feet each. The goal is to have a t-shaped vine that will remain as the basic structure to support the smaller fruiting vines.

Step 3

Prune off any vines growing from the two main branches that are more than one-half inch in diameter.

Step 4

Thin out the remaining small diameter vines so you have approximately two or three growing from each linear foot of the main branches.

Step 5

Cut back every other one of the remaining small vines to 8 or 10 inches and leave the others long. The short spurs can bear fruit the following season, and the longer ones will produce the energy needed by the plant through photosynthesis. .

Tips

  • It is best to prune grape vines in late winter while they are still dormant.
  • When cutting off vines, cut them flush to the larger vine that they are growing from.
  • Use a pruning saw to cut vines 1 inch or greater in diameter, bypass pruners for vines between 1/2 and 1 inch in size, and hand pruners for vines less than 1/2 inch.

Warning

  • To minimize the spread of disease, sterilize all pruning equipment by dipping in rubbing alcohol before pruning and again before moving on to prune another grape vine.

About the Author

Brian Barth works in the fields of landscape architecture and urban planning and is co-founder of Urban Agriculture, Inc., an Atlanta-based design firm where he is head environmental consultant. He holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. His blog, Food for Thought, explores the themes of land use, urban agriculture, and environmental literacy.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images