a little help from my friends

Although I’ve been gardening for longer than Methuselah, I’m pretty new to grapes.  Last year I planted my first vines and trained them to a single stem.  They seemed to do well.

But this Spring, the single stems of both vines appear to have no life, while new growth is spurting out from the base of the plants.


Anyone out there experienced with grape-growing?  Should I pick a new central vine this year?

9 thoughts on “a little help from my friends

  1. That’s a shame your main rod died. I would always reckon that grapes are fully hardy but maybe, after your wicked winter the cold got to yours. I wonder why you are growing the main rod vertically? Grapes are always produced on the new shoots every year so if you grow one rod upright, which is permanent, you will have to grow the fruiting shoots horizontally from this every year, cutting back to the vertical rod in winter. If it were mine I would take advantage of those new shoots and train two, at 180 degrees, along that wire that seems to be 15cm off the soil. train them along this summer and make them your permanent rods. trim them as long as you want. Then, every year, your fruiting shoots will grow vertically from these and, at the end of the season, are cut back to one bud. This will allow you to get a dozen or more bunches every year but the added advantage is that, because your two rods are close to the soil, you could mulch or cover then, in December, to protect them from extreme cold – just an idea 🙂

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    • Ah, I thought I’d read some grapevine posts on your blog Geoff, and I was hoping you’d have some ideas.

      I’m using what I guess is called a four-cane Kniffen system, which consists of a main trunk with two pairs of laterals onto wires at two levels. (You can’t see the second wire in the image I posted)


      Again, I have no experience. Are you saying that instead of a single central leader with laterals on each wire, you’d train two stems from the ground to the wire? And if so, what about the top wire?


      • My goodness – that article confused the heck out of me! Pounds of buds? As I say, you are growing in different conditions to me so I will not say that what works for me will work for you but a lot of ‘traditional’ pruning and training systems are based on complicated, French systems and there is no need to make things more difficult than they need be. I would keep those two basal, horizontal rods – train them and tie them in this summer. Maybe cover them in winter to protect them from cold. Then, next spring, a new shoot will grow from every bud along the length of these rods. You will need to support these and, if you have an upper wire, you could tie strings from the top to lower wire or you could put in a cane for each new shoot. These will grow up the canes though they will need to be trained and pinched out – as in my recent grape post. After you have picked your fruit you should prune out the young, vertical shoots back to one bud in winter – perhaps with a glass of home made wine in your hand. You then do this every year. This is what I would do but you should do what you are happiest with. If cold was the cause of the death of your above-grown stem, maybe wrapping with straw or hessian may help.

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      • Well it’s all confusing to me too, especially with no experience to draw from.

        It seems like the familiar sight with grapevines (around here anyway) is a single main trunk with two sets of laterals like what I’d started. I appreciate your ideas, and I’ll give them some thought.

        I’ve also emailed the company that I purchased the vines from to get their thoughts before I go wasting another year of my grape-growing life.

        Thanks Geoff!


      • I can understand the upright with two laterals – that makes sense. I only suggested the low-level idea in case you needed to protect your plant from cold in winter. Anyway, I hope you decide on a plan – this year’s growth will be the basis of your crop next year 🙂 Good luck!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve heard of northern grape growers who untie the vine from the trellis in the fall and protect them with mulch. Then in the spring uncover them and set them up and retie to the trellis. I think there are varieties cold hardy enough for your area that it wouldn’t normally be necessary. Hopefully it was just an unusually hard winter. Good luck.


    • Well that’s an interesting idea. Yes, the plants actually made it through the winter with cover, and just the main stems aren’t showing signs of life. So covering those makes sense.

      Or maybe life will still ooze up the main vines if I’m patient. That’s the wonder of gardening; there’s always something new to learn!

      Thanks for your thoughts 🙂


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