Tips on Spur and Cane Pruning Your Grape Vines

Grapes are a great addition to the edible landscape. Whether you are growing table or wine grapes, all of them need to be trained, pruned at least twice a year, once in the winter and at least once in the summer. The type of pruning you do will be determined by the variety that you are pruning. There are many different types of training methods but here we will talk about the basics, cane and spur (cordon) pruning. Tricia shows you the different pruning methods in our video Winter Pruning Grape Vines.

Training Your New Grape Vine

First Growing Season–If your grape is newly planted, you want to just let it grow the first year. This will allow for large and healthy root development. The first winter after growing free over the summer select the straightest and sturdiest shoot and train it to a post or bamboo to allow it to grow up to the guide wire. Tie it with twine or plastic tape to keep it supported and encourage straight growth. This may seem counter-intuitive, but remove all the lower shoots on the trunk and on the shoot you are keeping, shorten it to about 3-4 buds.

Second Growing Season–Choose the strongest upright shoot for continued elongation of the trunk. If growing two tiers, start training your bottom layer by selecting a shoot on each side of the trunk at about 30” above the ground. Tie to your support wire with twine or plastic tape. Remove shoots that are growing out along the trunk below these side shoots (will become your cordon). Once the center shoot (trunk) reaches the top support wire, pinch it back to encourage growth of side shoots.

Second Winter–Remove shoots growing along the trunk and arms (or new cordons).

Third Summer–Prune shoots sprouting along the trunk and allow the side shoots to grow. The following winter you will decide whether to cane prune or spur prune. Spur Pruning Grapes

Spur Pruning Your Grape Vines

Varieties That Can be Spur Pruned (Cordon)

  • Flame
  • Black Monukka
  • Ruby
  • Muscat of Alexandria
  • Chardonnay
  • Merlot
  • Zinfandel
  • Pinot Noir
  • Red Globe
  • Shiraz

Selecting Your Spurs–on a new vine it will be very important to select spurs that will become the permanent arms of your cordon. The spurs should be about 6” apart with a total of about 6-7 for each half cordon (each side). Keep spurs that are growing upright and are the closest to the cordon or main shoot. Shorten the shoots to 2 buds per spur.

Cane Pruning Your Grapes

Varieties That Can be Cane Pruned (Guyot)

  • Cabernet Sauvingnon
  • Chardonnay
  • Thompson
  • Flame
  • Black Monukka
  • Ruby
  • Red Globe
  • Himrod
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Shiraz
  • Merlot
  • Zinfendel

In late winter or early spring select and tag your fruiting and renewal spurs for the season.

Selecting Fruiting Canes and Renewal Spurs

  • From the previous years growth decide which one-year old (bark is smooth) canes you want to save for your fruiting canes.
  • Select two canes on each side of the main trunk and the canes should be ones that were exposed to sun and are coming off close to the trunk. These canes should be strong, a diameter of 1/4-1/2”, and not have long internodes (space between nodes should be around 3-4 inches).
  • Save two canes on each side to be used as renewal spurs. These should be growing near the base of the fruiting canes. Renewal spurs will be the fruiting canes for next year.
  • Tag with a ribbon the canes you have selected for fruiting and renewal.
  • Remove all other canes that were not selected.
  • Trim your saved fruiting cane to 10-15 buds and tie them to the guide wire or trellis.
  • Trim your saved renewal spurs to about two buds.


Cane Pruning

How to Prune if You Don’t Know What Variety of Grape

So you have moved to a property that has some neglected mystery grapes. How do you decide how to prune them? It is best the first dormant season to cane prune the grapes as described above. Then when your plants start to put out blooms, look at where they are coming off the cane. If the blooms are coming off very close to the main trunk, then that indicates it would be better to spur prune the following year. If they set blooms all along the cane, then continue to cane prune your vine.

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