The first three years after planting your grape vines needs to be devoted to training and pruning your grape vines so they will produce strong canes and large clusters of juicy grapes for many seasons to come. Part of this three long years of patient grape vine pruning will include removing any flower clusters that may form, a difficult task when you just want some fresh grapes!
The first year you plant grapes vines, add trellises or wooden stakes to loosely tie your grape vines too they grow. Trellis or stakes will train the grape vine to grow straight up, allow for maximum sun and air exposure and to protect your grape vines from breaking.
Do not fertilize grape vines the first year. Mulch the grape vines well with organic matter, remove the mulch in the winter so small rodents won’t make the mulch their winter home.
Watch carefully as new stem shoots begin to emerge on your grape vines the first year. When more than three new shoots have emerged and grown to longer than two inches, choose the best three shoots and remove all others by rubbing or snapping them off the grape vine. This will promote faster and stronger growth for the three shoots that remain.
Continue to loosely tie the new growth as needed to the trellis, and remove any flower clusters that may form the first year. The flower clusters will steal energy away from the developing grape vine.
The second year after you planted grape vines, you can fertilize them with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilize. Fertilize each grape vine with 1/2 cup of fertilize as soon as the buds begins to swell on the grape vine. Stop fertilizing the grape vines in mid-July.
Continue to loosely tie the grape vine growth and remove flower clusters during the second year. Remove buds that form below the three shoots you started last year.
When the grape vines go into their second season of dormancy (second winter) select a cane from last year’s growth that has turned woody, is at least as big around as a pencil and that is long enough to reach the top of the trellis. On that cane, start at the bottom and count up 10 buds, cut off the rest of the cane right there. This cane will become the main trunk of your grape vine. All other canes need to be cut off just above the second bud.
During the third year after planting grape vines, continue with the fertilizing, low bud removal and mulching. Begin to train the long growing grape vine shoots on horizontal trellises, loosely tying and remove all buds except for top 2-3 on each shoot.
In the third year after planting grape vines, if you are anxious to taste the fruits of your patient care, allow the grape vines to set some flowers and produce only a few clusters of grapes. The vines should be strong enough by the third year that a small grape production won’t deplete their energy. The fourth year is when you can allow as many flower clusters to remain on the grape vines as you wish.
Continue pruning, fertilizing and mulching your grape vines throughout the life of the vines.