Chapter 7

Planting and Training Young Grapevines

Training Young Grapevines

Proper training of young vines is essential in order to form a vine with desired shape and structure (i.e., head height, position, and length of arms, canes, or cordons) for the trellis system. The sequence of steps involved with training young grapevines are often described in terms of time, such as year one, year two, and so on, but vines often develop at different rates depending on a number of factors such as environmental conditions, root stock, vine vigor, and management practices employed by the wine grape grower. Thus, the steps described in training young vines may take a single season or several seasons. Regardless of the time frame, the initial training of grapevines has the following goals:

Develop the Trunk

Proper training begins with the goal of forming strong, straight shoots in developing the trunk(s). At planting, grapevines are generally pruned to two or more buds with most of these buds likely to produce a shoot. Two methods of forming the trunk are practiced. The first method allows the untrained vines to “bush” producing multiple shoots the first growing season and the second method trains the vines forming the trunk(s) in the season of planting.

Untrained Vines

In colder regions, it is common just to grow a bush the first year and train the trunk(s) in the second year. The bush method allows the vine to grow freely on the ground, with little or no training and no attempt is made to attach the vine to the trellis wire (See Figure 7.1).

Trained Vines

For a very vigorous site, some initial structure training may take place by limiting the number of shoots on newly planted vines from one to three during the first year. Retaining several shoots, rather than one, provides some measure of compensation against disease, insects, wind, winter injury, and wildlife predation.

Vine Support: If a trellis is installed at the time of planting the shoots can be loosely tied to the wires. Often the shoot(s) will need additional ties so the trunk will grow straight and parallel with the stake (See Figure 7.2).

Grow Tubes: Grow tubes (plastic or waxed cardboard sleeves) can be used as training aids too. The narrowness of the tubes makes it easier for the tendrils of the new growth to attach to the support, eliminating the need for tying until the shoots emerge from the top of the tubes (See Figure 7.3).

Establish the Training System

If the first-year’s growth has not reached the fruiting wire, remove all but one cane during the dormant season. Prune it back to two to four buds, secure it to training stake and start over next spring. Treat this vine as a 1 year-old vine. Trying to train a shoot that didn’t reach the wire will result in a trunk that is not straight as well as produce unwanted watersprouts. Most young vines are vigorous and will reach the trellis wire easily for training as discussed in the following section.

Options in Training Young Grapevines

Option A - In some cases, the main trunk may be bent over, cut four or five buds beyond the tie (See Figure 7.2), and attached to the fruiting wire to create one arm and the op4osite arm created from a strong lateral shoot arising 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) below the support wire.

Establishing Cordons

Cordons are elongated, horizontal, permanent arms carrying permanent, evenly-spaced spurs that give rise to the annual fruiting wood. The arrangement of the cordons will depend on the type of trellis system used but typically arranged in a bilateral fashion (i.e., one cordon each on either side of the trunk along the length of the row.

Establishing Canes

Cane training systems contain all of the same structures as cordon-pruned systems, but their number, spatial arrangement, and orientation are different. The cane-pruned vine is fan shaped with the arms extending in the plane of the trellis.

Continue to Develop the Training System


If the canes didn’t grow enough last season to become full-sized cordon arms they can either be cut back during dormancy to one or two bud spurs on the trunk or the cordon canes can be cut back to the point where they are approximately ¼ inch (0.6 cm) in diameter. It is a mistake to use canes that are too small for cordons.


At the end of the growing season, retain two canes on each arm; one is selected to be the fruiting cane and the other becomes a renewal spur (See Figure 7.6).

Removal of Suckers and Watersprouts

Suckers that arise from below ground bud positions and watersprouts that arise from the latent buds on the upper part of the trunk and from the head and arms should be removed.


tandard vineyard establishment procedures involve de-fruiting vines in their first several years of growth so that cropping doesn’t compete with the vegetative development of the vine.

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