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Training a new Grape Vine

The time spent training the vine in the first 2 years of the live of your grape vine will ensure a manageable plant that produces the best crops of grapes.

You will have first selected a site to grow your grapes with full sun. If you don’t have a spot with full sun, make sure it at least gets morning sun. A small amount of afternoon shade won’t hurt.

Next you first must determine the type of form you want your grape vine training to take.

There are a wide range of forms you can take in training your grape vines.

For the home gardener, you will be typically using the Cordon style or pergola styles of training.

I would with the typical limited size of a pergola in the home garden use one to produce grapes unless you are just looking for it to be more decorative. Grapes need room and grow vigorously once established. I would instead use a pergola as support for vining flowers or other crops that do not require as much space. The other disadvantage is the height of the grapes above your heard for a pergola that you can walk under make maintaining the vine a challenge.

I recommend for the home gardener that they make use of the Cordon style since this allows you to train the grapevines at a height that is easy to manage and make use of a more limited space and still be able to produce high yields.

To support your home vineyard, you will need something for the grapes to grow on.

Keep in mind that when you first purchase you vine from the store will be small and flimsy but as a long living plant they will grow to a size and bear fruit that will need to be properly supported.

This is simple as three 4X4 posts set into the ground with wire rune between them.

You want to burry the standard 8 ft long 4X4 at least 3 feet into the ground to properly support the wight of the mature vines.

It is recommended the outer two posts will be angled away from the center post. This helps offset the pull on them once the vines grow and become laden with fruit by providing additional leverage to help them avoid being pulled into the center. You can apply cement onto the foundation of the posts just to make sure that they will not be uprooted easily.

If you have the room, you can add additional posts in the center of the outside support posts for a longer run of support. Ideally, it must allow an area of eight-by-eight feet for each vine. This may seem like a long distance, but grape vines grow fast and long so you want to give them the space the need. If you do not have the room, there is no problem with reducing the distances to fit your garden space.

But before you think you do not have the room look around at the spaces you may have and thinks about placing the trellis along a fence

Or even as I have done and placed the grape support above my raspberry patch to make additional use of the trellising, I already had in place to support the raspberries. The result being I get two crops in the same square footprint in my garden.

With the posts located in the ground you now need to decide on how you want to train your vines.

To suport the vines between these posts you want to use a heavy duty #9 wire to provide suport.

This wire will be used to for the foundation and support of your vines and how you are going to train them.

The placement of the wire between the supports depends on your personal choice of how you would like to train your vines.

If you are planting in a place where the climate is mostly warm, you can opt for high trellises.

But if your place has a longer winter season, you may want to choose short trellises to give your vines some protection from the winds during the harsh snowy months.

I live in zone 7 where the lowest temperature can go to 0F to 5F but typically will only drop into the teens. My grapes do fine at five feet off the ground.

As a general rule the colder it is the lower you want to set the height of your trellis to provide protection of the vines but there is quite a bit of flexibility in what you can actually do since all gardens have micro climates and differing protection from winter winds.

You can use the Single-Wire Bilateral Cordon System that is the easiest to make

The wire can be set at any height from three to five feet off the ground. You want the support such that the grapes are easy to reach and maintain. Five feet is a good place to start but adjust up or down based on your height and what you are comfortable working.

Or you can double your production of grapes by utilizing the Two-Wire 4 Cane Kniffin System

This has the lower vines at three feet off the ground and the upper vines at five feet off the ground doubling the growing area of the plant in the same footprint on the ground.

While the above two examples have the arms of the vines going both the right and left of the main trunk you can train the vines to just grow to one side or the other of a support post. This can be used when you have limited space and just place two posts 8 feet apart.

I have found the best way to fasten the wire to the posts is to drill a hole at approximately the same height in all the posts that you would want the wire to be to hold the vines and then thread the wire thru the holes in the posts.

At the end posts you can wrap the wire around the post to secure it. This also allows you to unfasten he wire at these posts to take up any slack that may develop in the first year as the posts settle and the vines gain some weight.

Now that you know how to support the vines it is time to create your vineyard.

Grapevines should be planted in early spring after the date of the last hard freeze has passed for your area. Do not try and get a jump on the season and plant early. It is better to wait until you are sure the risk of frost has passed. Grapes will not really start growing until the soil and air has warmed so there is little advantage in getting them in the ground early.

To get your young vine set to train on your support chosen you first want to prepare the hole where you are going to plant the vine in.

The location you plant the vine will be based on the type of trellis you create. I have a central post with two end posts and so planted planed the vine at the center post and allowing it to spread to either side of the center post.

You just want the location chosen such that the vine’s “arms” can grow eight to ten feet before encountering the next plant on the trellis or the end of the trellis.

Dig the planting hole 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide. Fill the bottom of the hole with 4 inches of compost.

Trim off broken roots from the vine and set the vine into the hole slightly deeper than it grew in the pot or nursery.

Cover the roots with 6 inches of amended soil and tamp down. Fill with the remaining soil, but don’t tamp this layer down to allow the water to freely reach the roots.

The first year you want the allow the plant to grow and get its root system established. Every plant is different, and some will take off and some will just seem to sit there with little growth occurring.

Resist the urge to fertilize the first year and concentrate on maintaining even moisture in the soil.

Once the vine begins to grow you want to select the strongest growing stem to train to your trellis. You only need one vertical stem. By removing the others, you drive the plant to put all its energy into the stem that is left.

Once this stem reaches the height of your trellis wire you will pinch out the center growing tip to force it to produce side branches from the point that the leaves join the stem.

You will then take two of the side vines created and train them horizontally along the wire. One to each side of the plant

If you are using the 4 Cane Kniffin trellis system, you will need to take the topmost side cane and train it to grow up to the next set of trellis wires and use one side cane for each side of the lower set of wire.

Keep in mind that the plant will typically put most of its energy to the topmost growing point of the vine. As such you may see all the growth occur along the vines at the top wires with the lower vines lagging in their rate of growth.

Not to worry the lower vines will eventually catch up.

As the vines grow gently wrap them around the support wire to encourage their tendrils to wrap on the wire to provide support for the vine.

You can use string or clips to hold the vine in place until the tendrils wrap around the support wire.

The tendrils will naturally begin to wrap themselves around the support wire as they com into contact with it.

You will continue this process until the vine reaches the length you want it to reach along the support.

It is at this point that the vine reaches the end of the support that you will once again pinch out/ remove the growing tip of the vine to force it into developing new vines at the joints of the leaves to the vine.

It is these new vines created from the main stem that will produce the fruit for next year.

An established 2-year-old plant can easily put out 5 feet or more of growth in each direction from the main stem.

These vines could produce two clusters of grapes on each side stem for next year’s crop

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