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Garden Experiences: Supports for Grape Vines

Copyright © 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2021 by David E. Ross

I have three grape vines — 'Perlette', 'Black Monukka', and 'Flame' — on My Hill. These are all European (Vitis vinifera) seedless table grapes. The first two are planted about a fourth of the way up from the bottom of My Hill, each about a fourth of the way in from the sides. 'Flame' is planted centered near the top.

Grape vines in full foliage can become quite heavy, even without the added weight of the fruit. Thus, they need very sturdy support. A wooden trellis might not be sufficiently strong. I bought five steel pipe fence posts, each about 8 feet (2.4m) in length and 2 inches (5.1cm) in diameter. The bottoms were recut at angles to make pounding them into the ground easier. About 2 inches below the tops, I had small holes drilled. I also bought caps for the posts.

Three posts are spaced in a straight line, lined up with the 'Perlette' and 'Black Monukka' vines: one at the center and one each about 4 feet (1.2m) from a vine towards the side property line. The drilled holes are lined up perpendicular to the post-vine-post-vine-post alignment.

At each post, I took an eye bolt (about 1 inch (2.5cm) longer than the diameter of the post), two nuts, and two washers. First, I threaded a nut onto the bolt all the way to the eye, followed by a washer. Then I put the bolt through the drilled hole in the post. Finally, I secured it with the second washer followed by the second nut. I made sure the eye bolt was very tight.

diagram of grape vines on supports
'Perlette' and 'Black Monukka' vines and their supports

About 4 feet beyond each side post, I pounded two pieces of half-inch steel rebar into the hill at an angle: top away from the post, bottom towards the post. Finally, I got a length of wire rope, a turnbuckle, and several wire clamps. I cut the wire into unequal lengths. The first wire went from a pair of rebars, through the eye bolt of the nearest post, and to the turnbuckle. The second wire went from the other pair of rebars, through the eye bolt of its nearest post, through the eye bolt in the center post, and to the other part of the turnbuckle. Using the turnbuckle, I made the wire tight. (Note: I originally had only a single rebar at each end, but the weight of the vines with a crop of grapes was so great that the rebar bent and started to pull loose.)

A similar arrangement — but with only two posts — exists for the 'Flame' grape vine, which is near the top of My Hill. Those posts are evenly spaced on either side of the vine.

The first two years, I loosely tied twine to the base of a vine and the other end to the wire directly above the vine. I trained the new growth along the twine (which I renewed at the end of the first year). When the 'Perlette' or 'Black Monukka' vine reached the wire, I trained it along the wire towards the center post, loosely tying the vine to the wire. But I also selected a side branch to train along the wire towards the side post. When the 'Flame' vine reached its wire, I headed it and then selected two vigorous side shoots near the top, each to train towards a post.

Any new growth along the trunk between the ground and the wire is removed. During the growing season, I pinch some side branches to control their growth. Others, I tie to the wire. When I prune the 'Perlette' or 'Black Monukka' vine in winter, I cut the side towards the center at about 15-20 feet (4.6-6.1m). The other side, I cut at the adjacent post. (I prune according to the spur method.) When I prune the "Flame', I trim it to about two feet from each post.

Each year, I get many huge bunches of very sweet grapes … unless the squirrels, birds, and raccoons get them first.

18 October 2003
Updated 16 July 2021

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