Why the Wait?
Grape vines are deep-rooted plants and tend to live for a very long time; depending on the type of vine you plant, you can expect your grapes to continue growing for 50 to 100 years! A plant with that kind of life expectancy needs a little time and care to reach its potential.
- In their first year, grape vines are just beginning to grow and mature. Since grapes will not develop except on branches and shoots that are one year old, your plant will not fruit in the first year.
- In the second year, your plant may show some small clusters of grapes, but these are likely not good to eat. At this point, the two year old part of your plant is too old to produce fruit while the one year old shoots are not part of a plant mature enough to bear good fruit.
- In the third year, if you have done proper pruning every year, your plants one year old shoots will begin to put forth the lush, juicy, colorful grapes you love.
- Continued pruning, done correctly, will help you establish vines that produce lots of grapes each year and that will remain productive for many years to come.
But the lapse between planting and first harvest is crucial to future harvests. The single most important thing you can do in this time is prune.
If You Want Grapes, You Must Prune!
In its “infancy” your grape vines will be developing a deep root system and sending out new shoots each year. What do you need to do to encourage your vines to grow well? Only a few things, really.
Proper pruning over your plant’s lifetime is important, especially in the beginning. During its first year, your vines will send up shoots from the ground; prune off all but the strongest of these. This shoot will develop more new growth and you’ll want to prune off all but the best four of these.
The second year of the vine’s growth is when you need to prune off a large part of your plant. Roughly 70% of the new growth should be removed. You want to end up with the plant’s main trunk and the four branches you created the previous year.
Once your plant begins producing fruit each season, pruning requirements will change, but pruning will remain an important part of the care of your vines.