Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How to I prune and train my grape vines?

Pruning is probably the most important part of grape culture. Because of the grape's tendency to grow so vigorously a lot of wood must be cut away each year. Grape vines that are overgrown become so dense that the sun cannot reach into the area where fruit should form.

The best and easiest way to grow grapes for fruit is on a two-wire fence in a method called the Kniffin system. Vines should be planted about 8 feet apart, with a post midway between each plant and one on each end. String two strands of smooth 10-gauge wire on the posts, the first 2 feet above the ground and the second about 3 feet higher. After planting, cut back the new vine so it is only 5 or 6 inches long and contains two or three fat buds. This encourages additional root growth. Allow the vines to grow freely the first year.

The second year, very early in the spring, before the buds swell, cut the vine back to a single stem with no branches. This will strengthen the trunk and encourage more vigor. During the year allow four side branches to grow (two in each direction) and train them along the wires. Pinch off all other buds that are inclined to grow in other directions. By the end of the second year, the space along both wires should be filled. These vines should then bloom and produce a few grapes the third year. During the third year four more canes should be allowed to grow from buds along the main stem. These should parallel the vines producing grapes and will replace the first four canes. In late winter following the third year, cut out the old canes that produced the past year and tie the new ones to the wires to replace them. Trim off all excess growth except the four new canes. Treated in this way, each mature vine should produce from 12 to 15 pounds of grapes or 30 to 60 bunches per year. If more bunches than this are produced, remove them before the grapes develop, to avoid overbearing and thus weakening the plant. Treated in this fashion, vines should continue to produce well for many years.