How Do I Tend Old Grape Vines?

“Do you have any advice on tending to old neglected grapevines?” Question from Shelby of Covelo, California

Answer: Old, overgrown grape vines look like a nightmare to tame and manage, but getting them back under control is a relatively quick task.  All it takes are some sharp bypass pruners, sharp loppers, a little know-how, and new trellising, if the old trellising are longer supports the vines. And, you can always save the cut vines for wreath making.

It is necessary to hard-prune mature grape vines yearly to minimize vine growth and maximize good fruit output. This means removing an average of 90% of the previous year’s growth yearly. There are several pruning methods for grape establishment and maintenance. Your method will depend on your trellises and how your grapes are growing. To learn more click here to read this useful article from WSU Extension on grape pruning.

Minimizing foliar overgrowth through pruning encourages airflow, which discourages fruit bunch rot, among other common fungal diseases caused by vines that are too dense. Many more diseases plague grapes, which is why choosing disease-resistant stock is important. [Click here for a full online guide to grape diseases from Canadian Food & Ag.]

It is also essential to weed around your grapes and create open space that makes them easier to tend in the long run. Adding a layer of protective mulch at the base is also helpful. If you have wine grapes, click here to read my article about wine grape growing.

Happy grape growing!

Black Gold Horticulturist

Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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