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Sharpen the Shears...It’s Time to Prune Grapes

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Along with water, fertilizer and good soil, proper pruning of grapevines is important to keep grapes fruiting. It’s best to prune grapevines in the dormant season – typically from late February or early March – while they are leafless. The goals of pruning include maintaining plant health, management of vine size and shape, promoting fruit production and obtaining good air circulation and sunlight penetration.


It’s best to use sharp, clean pruning shears or loppers. Disinfect the shears between plants to help prevent the spread of any diseases.


When pruning, keep in mind the vines produce fruit on the current season’s growth from one-year-old spurs. These young, fruiting canes are recognizable because they are smooth and tan, unlike the older wood with dark, peeling bark. 


Before getting started pruning, tie a ribbon around the vines you want to keep. This will help you keep from accidentally pruning vines you wanted. Prune the dead and diseased wood by cutting back to healthy wood.


The number of buds left behind determines the fruiting potential of the vine in the next growing season. A common method of pruning is called cane pruning. Select the healthiest canes from last year – ones that are about as big around as a pencil and originate as close to the main trunk as possible. Leave 10 to 15 buds per cane. These will provide the fruiting canes for next season.


If the vines are still healthy and were good producers during the last growing season, more buds can be left. However, if the vines are weak, leave fewer buds.


Another method is spur pruning in which gardeners select two to four canes and cut them back to just two or three buds each. These are known as renewal spurs and encourage the growth of new canes.


Gardeners who are still establishing their grapevines should continue training them along a trellis or other support system. Be sure to remove any unwanted shoots that don’t fit into the desired training plan.


When gardeners have completed their pruning chores, clean up the debris around the vines to reduce the risk of pests and diseases. Oklahoma State University Extensionhas more information on pruning and grape management in the Growing Grapes in the Home Garden   fact sheet.

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