Grape 'Schiava Grossa'

How to prune grapes

Find out how to get the most from your grapevine by pruning hard. Learn how and when to do it, in our guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Fruits
Fruits

Plant does not fruit in January

Plant does not fruit in February

Plant does not fruit in March

Plant does not fruit in April

Plant does not fruit in May

Plant does not fruit in June

Plant does not fruit in July

Plant does fruit in August

Plant does fruit in September

Plant does not fruit in October

Plant does not fruit in November

Plant does not fruit in December

Prune
Prune

Do Prune in January

Do not Prune in February

Do not Prune in March

Do not Prune in April

Do not Prune in May

Do not Prune in June

Do not Prune in July

Do not Prune in August

Do not Prune in September

Do not Prune in October

Do not Prune in November

Do Prune in December

Cut back
Cut back

Do not Cut back in January

Do not Cut back in February

Do not Cut back in March

Do not Cut back in April

Do Cut back in May

Do Cut back in June

Do Cut back in July

Do not Cut back in August

Do not Cut back in September

Do not Cut back in October

Do not Cut back in November

Do not Cut back in December

Harvest
Harvest

Do not Harvest in January

Do not Harvest in February

Do not Harvest in March

Do not Harvest in April

Do not Harvest in May

Do not Harvest in June

Do not Harvest in July

Do not Harvest in August

Do Harvest in September

Do Harvest in October

Do not Harvest in November

Do not Harvest in December

One of the common problems with homegrown grapevines is that they have far too many grapes, both in number of bunches and per bunch. This results in small fruit of low quality. The secret is to prune them hard every year, aiming to ensure your vine bears far fewer grapes than it’s capable of producing.

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Find out how and when to prune grapevines, below.


When to prune

Monty Don pruning Black Hamburg vine in the large greenhouse
Monty Don pruning ‘Black Hamburg’ vine in the large greenhouse

Grapes form on new wood so need to be pruned every year to a framework. In other words, anything left when the leaves have fallen will not produce grapes. So, during the vine’s winter dormancy, remove everything but the most basic structure.


How to prune

Monty pruning Black Hamburg vine in the large greenhouse
Monty pruning Black Hamburg vine in the large greenhouse

Don’t be frightened to cut hard – vines grow strongly and always fruit on new growth. Cut all fruiting sideshoots back to just two buds. You can also use this method for ornamental vines such as Ampelopsis brevipedunculataor porcelain berry, and virginia creeper, which can be cut back to create spurs from which vigorous, flowering shoots will be produced in summer.


Cutting back new growth

Monty Don cutting back the grape vine in the new greenhouse
Monty Don cutting back the grape vine in the new greenhouse

In May, when there’s been a lot of new growth, cut out everything apart from developing stems that will create future structure, and your sideshoots that should be carrying pinhead-sized grapes. Then reduce the latter to just two bunches per sideshoot.


Thinning the grapes

Thinning grapes to improve yields
Thinning grapes to improve yields
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In midsummer, cut back excess growth again, to make sure that the grapes get as much ventilation as possible to avoid fungal problems. To ensure nice big individual grapes, thin each bunch by at least half, cutting out young fruit so that none is touching. This is an extremely fiddly job but is well worth the effort.


Quick tips for success

  • When planting, don’t add compost to the planting hole as this will create a waterlogged sump. Just refill with soil and firm well
  • Water well and mulch generously with garden compost or well-rotted manure. Add more mulch every spring, leaving as large an area as you can free from weeds and other plants around the base of the vine
  • Once planted, prune back the vine to a strong bud about 30cm (12in) above soil level – wherever it is growing and however you eventually wish to train it