Supporting A Grapevine – How To Make A Grapevine Support

Supporting A Grapevine – How To Make A Grapevine Support

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By: Amy Grant

Grapes are woody perennial vines that just naturally like to clamber up things. As the vines mature, they tend to get woody and that means heavy. Of course, grapevines can be allowed to climb up an existing fence to lend them support, but if you don’t have a fence where you want to put the grapevine, another method of supporting the grapevine must be found. There are many types of grapevine support structures – from simple to complex. The following article discusses ideas on how to make a grapevine support.

Types of Grapevine Support Structures

A support is needed for grapevines to keep the new shoots or canes and fruit off the ground. If the fruit is left in contact with the ground, it will likely rot. Also, a support allows a greater area of the vine to gain sunlight and air.

There are any numbers of ways to support a grapevine. Basically, you have two choices: a vertical trellis or a horizontal trellis.

  • A vertical trellis uses two wires, one about 3 feet (1 m.) above ground to allow for good air circulation under the vines, and one about 6 feet (2 m.) above ground.
  • A horizontal system uses three wires. One wire attaches to the post about 3 feet (1 m.) above ground and is used for trunk support. Two parallel wires are attached horizontally to the ends of 4-foot (1 m.) long cross arms secured to posts 6 feet (2 m.) above ground. These horizontal lines hold the canes in place.

How to Make a Grapevine Support

Most people use a vertical trellis system. This system uses posts that are either wood treated for ground use, PVC, or galvanized steel or aluminum. The post should be 6 ½ to 10 feet (2 to 3 m.) in length, depending on the size of the vine and you will need three of them. You will also need at least 9 gauge galvanized aluminum wire or up to 14 gauge, again depending upon the size of the vine.

Pound a pole 6 inches (15 cm.) or so into the ground behind the vine. Leave 2 inches (5 cm.) of space between the pole and the vine. If your poles are more than 3 inches (7.5 cm.) across, this is where a hole digger comes in handy. Backfill the hole with a mix of soil and fine gravel to solidify the pole. Pound or dig a hole for another post about 6-8 feet (2 to 2.5 m.) from the first and backfill as before. Pound or dig a hole between the other two posts for a center post and backfill.

Measure 3 feet (1 m.) up the posts and drive two screws halfway into the posts on either side. Add another set of screws near the top of the posts at around 5 feet (1.5 m.).

Wrap the galvanized wire around the screws from one post to the other at both the 3-foot (1 m.) and 5-foot mark (1.5 m.). Tie the vine to the center post with landscape ties or twine at 12 inches (30.5 cm.) high. Continue to tie the vine every 12 inches (30.5 cm.) as it grows.

As the vine matures, it thickens and the ties can cut into the trunk, causing damage. Keep a close eye on the ties and remove those that become too tight and re-secure with a new tie. Train the vines to grow along the top and middle wire between the posts, continuing to tie them every 12 inches (30.5 cm.).

Another idea for supporting a grapevine is by using pipes. The author of the post I read recommends using Klee Klamp fittings. The idea is much the same as above only using pipe fittings instead of posts and galvanized wire. Even a combination of materials will work as long as everything is weather proof and sturdy and is assembled properly.

Remember, you want to have your vine for a long time, so take the time to make a strong structure for it to grow on.

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All About Grape Trellises

Grape vines require structures to direct their growth in order to produce the best fruit a trellis or other support can also help maintain plant health and prevent diseases in your vine. T-shaped trellises are popular, especially in vineyards, but there are other options. Keep reading and we'll tell you all about the ways you can support your grape vines and how it helps them.

Why do grape vines require support?

One reason for providing a trellis or arbor for your grape plants is obvious: Grape clusters are heavy! A plant laden with 40 or 50 bunches of grapes will bow under the weight of its fruit, causing damage to the vine. But there are more reasons to provide a growth structure for your grapes. Plant health and fruit production are also aided by a trellis.

There are more benefits to the trellis, too. Harvesting grapes is much easier when your vines are trained along wires or wooden frame, giving you much better access to the clusters of grapes. Weeding your vineyard is also simpler when the leaves and branches are growing above the ground and out of your way.

How is the plant helped by a trellis?

A trellis, arbor, arch, or other supporting structure helps you determine the direction of your plant’s growth. Additionally, visibility of the plant’s growth and easier access to the vines and branches means pruning is simpler and more effective.

By spreading the leaves of the vine along the trellis, more sun is able to reach the plant grapes love sunshine, so the increased light encourages additional growth. The spreading of the plant’s greenery also improves air circulation throughout the plant which helps reduce diseases caused by excessive moisture build up.

Finally, grapes like warm soil and keeping their vines above the ground lets the sunshine reach the earth and keep the dirt nicely heated for a happy, productive plant.

What kind of supports are there?

Most of us have seen the traditional t-shaped trellis that fills most vineyards and gardens, and this is an efficient and effective method of supporting grape vines. There are, however, other means of training and supporting your vines.

  • The high cordon trellis is the most commonly seen arrangement. It is well suited to American grape varieties and is just a single wire strung between posts just far enough apart to provide support for the wire. The plant’s vines are trained to grow along the wire. This method works best when your vines are planted at least six to eight feet apart.
  • The umbrella kniffen system, is similar to the high cordon, except that it involves two wires – one above and one below – stretched across the posts. The main trunk grows to the top wire then the four spared canes are bent over and trained to grow along the lower wire. This creates the umbrella effect the method is named for.
  • Another trellis system, the vertical shoot position, is an excellent choice for French varieties of grapes. This is a system involving six to eight wires along posts, and causes the vines to grow in a hedge-like arrangement.

It’s not just trellises, though!

You can use other things to support your grape vines though a professional trellis system isn’t the only option. A garden arch is a great choice for using your grape vines in decorative fashion. The height and ladder like cross-bars of the structure are just made for training your vines while promoting the development of plenty of fruit.

Other options for your trellis include hog wire fencing on posts, wooden arbors, and various constructs available from your local garden or home improvement retailer. There are ideas all over the internet, too. For example, your vines can be trained along wood and wires arranged to create a tunnel, or to grow over the top of a garden swing frame.

Whatever arrangement or construction you use to support your grape vines as they grow, their use is imperative. Grapes left to grow undirected will tend to grow little to no fruit, are difficult to prune, and are susceptible to disease.

How to Build a Support for Grape Vines

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Grape vines are typically grown on a trellis system of wires that are held up by posts. The design of your trellis depends on how you want to grow your vines. Some like for there to be two or even three rows of feeder vines off of the main stems, while others prefer just a single vine. No matter how many wires, the process for building the trellis is virtually the same.

Dig post holes for the trellis supports that are 3 feet 6 inches deep and can accommodate 4-by-4-inch posts. Space the posts 20 feet apart. If you are short on space, you can make the spacing between posts less. This will only mean that you can place fewer vines between posts. Other than that, it won't affect your vines.

Dig an additional hole on each end for the end posts to help keep the trellis wires tight. Dig these holes at a 45-degree angle, in toward the fence line, and 3 feet 6 inches deep.

Fill each hole with 6 inches of gravel and pack it down. This will keep water away from the bottom of the posts.

Insert posts in each hole along the trellis line. The main trellis posts should be 8 feet tall, with 5 feet sticking out of the ground and the angled end posts 9 feet tall, with 6 feet sticking out of the ground. Pack around the posts with your foot to firm up the soil around them.

Insert an earth anchor into the ground on each end of the trellis line. The earth anchor is a metal rod with a loop on one end and blades to help screw it into the ground on the other. Insert a metal rod through the looped end so that you have something to hold on to as you drill it into the ground. The anchor needs to be inserted at a 45-degree angle, going into the soil in the opposite direction of the trellis. Screw it in until only a couple inches are above ground.

Run one or two lines of wire down the trellis line. If using one line, place it 2 inches from the top of the post. If using two lines, set the lower line 30 inches off the ground and the top line 2 inches from the top. Trap the wire on each post with metal staples. Don't hammer the staple flush with the wire and post, but leave them loose. They are only there to hold the wire against the post and need to be loose so the wires can be tightened.

Attach wire strainers to the end post, so that the wheel of the strainer is on the side of the post facing the earth anchor. The wire strainers come with a metal loop that is used to attach it to the post or another fence wire. Feed a 2-foot-long piece of wire through the wire strainer loop, and then wrap the ends of wire around the post. Wrap the two ends of the wire around each other like a twist tie to secure it to the post. Twist the wire at least 6 times to ensure it won't come loose. For added safety, you can insert staples into the post, and hammer them flush, to help hold the wire around the post. Place one strainer 2 inches below the top wire, and the second 2 inches below the bottom wire.

Feed the wires, on one end of the trellis line, over to the end post and secure it loosely with staples. Then run the wires through the eye of the earth anchor, and back around to the end post. Attach each end wire to a wire strainer that you installed on the end post. Repeat the process on the other side.

Tighten wires by ratcheting the wire strainers.

How to Support Grapevines

You must support grapevines above the ground so they can get adequate sunlight and water. Construct this sturdy support system that can hold a few vines in the back yard. When adequately supported, one grapevine can produce up to 20 pounds of grapes per year.

Choose the Site

Position your grapevine trellis in an area that gets at least 10 hours of full sunlight per day. Run the trellis in a north-south direction to maximize sunlight exposure time.

Check the Soil pH at the Site

The soil should have a pH of between 5.2 and 5.8. Soil pH slightly above or below these values will still promote healthy grape growth.

Plan the Layout

Plan a row of posts 20 feet apart at the centers for the trellis support frame. Calculate 6 to 8 feet of spreading distance for each vine, with 3 vines between each pair of poles. Mark the locations on the ground with grass-safe spray paint.

The posts should be 10 feet long. Two feet of each post goes into the ground for strength, with 5 feet above the ground. They can be 6x6 pressure-treated lumber, PVC or galvanized metal, either steel or aluminum.

At the start and end of each row, put 2 posts 10 feet apart, and attach a cross beam at 7 feet up to make an H support. This will keep the row wires from stretching and sagging. Use galvanized aluminum wire that is at least 12.5 to 14-gauge for the trellis.

Dig Post Holes and Erect the Trellis Frame

Use a post hole digger to scoop out holes 2 feet deep for each pole including the H-frame supports. When you install the poles, tamp the dirt in around them firmly. Check the row with a plumb line to ensure that they are straight up and aligned. Attach 4 rows of the galvanized wire with an industrial stapler, with the first row 18 inches off the ground to support the vine containers. The second row goes 18 inches above that one, and the top 2 rows 2 feet apart, at 5 and 7 feet. This will support the growing grapes at each stage of their development.

Get a helper to assist with tightening the wire to 250 pounds of tension, as measured with a wire strainer with a heavy-duty clip. During this step, wear safety glasses and sturdy gloves, as bits of the wire fly off in all directions as it is stretched and tightened.

Plant the Vines

Keeping the vines in their vine containers, plant 3 evenly-spaced between each pair of vine poles (not including the H-supports). The lowest level wire should rest on top of the vine containers to stabilize them. Train the first growth of each vine up to the second wire. They will need to be trained upward to the higher wires as they grow.

Protect the Vines from Animals

Enclose the whole vine trellis with a high fence and soft fencing wire pushed into the dirt at the bottom, to keep out rabbits, deer, and other wildlife.

After having considered the above factors and aspects, you can choose from the following common grapevine trellis systems for your grapevines:

Fence trellis systems

These trellises work best for the smaller grape vineyards where they engage the vines by letting them wrap and crawl around the posts. These include posts made of vinyl, metal, or wood and have cubed structures to allow the proper inflow of sunlight and air into the vines. It is with these fence trellises that harvesting and pruning the vines becomes easier.

Cordon trellis systems

These systems can be called the most optimal ones out of all since they have different levels and rooms to allow any kind of vine growth and vigor. With the initial support ensured, these trellises give additional support when the fruits and foliage develop further. The different levels of wirings incorporated in the system give support to different parts of the vines.

Umbrella Kniffin and four-cane systems

These trellises look like those basic two-wired fences that include wooden posts and steel wires fitted with each other. The posts are inserted into the ground and the wires are stretched and tied between the posts on which the grapevines are trained to crawl.

Important Structures & Features of Grapevines

The Lodi Winegrape Commission and the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) are partnering to provide Lodi winegrowers with the latest information about grape pest management. This is the first of several excerpts from the third edition of the Grape Pest Management book to be published here in the Coffee Shop.

In Grape Pest Management, more than 70 research scientists, cooperative extension advisors and specialists, growers, and pest control advisors have consolidated the latest scientific studies and research into one handy reference. The result is a comprehensive, easy-to-read pest management tool.

The new edition, the first to be published in over a decade, includes several new invasive species that are now major grape pests. It also reflects an improved understanding among researchers and growers about the biology of pests. With nine expansive chapters, helpful, colorful photos throughout, here’s more of what you’ll find:

  • Diagnostic techniques for identifying vineyard problems
  • Detailed descriptions of more than a dozen diseases
  • Comprehensive, illustrated listings of insect and mite pests,including the recently emerging glassy winged sharpshooter and Virginia creeper leaf-hopper
  • Regional calendars of events for viticultural management
  • Up-to-date strategies for vegetation management

Click HERE to purchase your copy of Grape Pest Management.

This excerpt from Grape Pest Management (Third Edition) was published with permission from UC ANR, and was written by Larry Bettiga, Paul Verdegaal, and Matthew Fidelibus.


The succulent new growths that extend from each bud are called shoots. By fall, mature, woody shoots that dropped their leaves and entered dormancy are called canes. The length of grapevine shoots and canes is partitioned, alternately, into nodes and internodes (fig. 2.1).

Nodes are the thickened sections that have buds from which new shoots may arise. Internodes are the smaller-diameter sections between each node. Each cluster is borne opposite a leaf on nodes near the base of a shoot. Tendrils, which replace clusters on more apical nodes, occur in an alternating pattern so that a tendril is formed opposite each of two adjacent leaves but not formed opposite the third leaf. This pattern is observed for all grapevines except Vitis labrusca, which has tendrils on most nodes.

Cells that compose new leaves, clusters, tendrils, and other tissues are formed by division of the apical meristem at the tip of each actively growing shoot. Newly formed cells then differentiate and expand, so that young leaves and other organs appear to unfold from the shoot tip. The shoot growth rate depends on environmental conditions. Unlike many deciduous plants, grapevine shoots do not form terminal buds. Shoot growth will continue if there is sufficient heat and an abundance of moisture in the soil.

Figure 2.1: Main features of a grapevine shoot after fruit set.

As shoots develop, two types of buds are formed at each node in the leaf axil at the base of the petiole. Lateral, or prompt, buds are formed first. Prompt buds are so named because lateral shoots arise from them in the season the buds are formed these shoots are also referred to as summer laterals. Lateral shoots may be very short or quite long. Most of the short lateral shoots fail to lignify and drop from canes during dormancy.

Figure 2.2: At left, a cross-section of a dormant grape bud attached to a cane, with internal features ad the position of leaf petiole attachment. At right, a shoot showing a lateral shoot that has grown from the leaf axil and a latent bud.

Regardless of its length or persistence, each lateral shoot will form a latent bud in its first leaf axil this leaf is reduced to a prophyll, a bract or scalelike structure. This latent bud may also be referred to as a compound bud or an eye. Latent buds generally contain three growing points, each with partially developed shoots, including rudimentary leaves, tendrils, and flower clusters. A compound bud generally remains dormant after it has formed until the following spring. Then, in most instances, only the middle, or primary, growing point will emerge (fig. 2.2). Death or injury to the primary bud or some environmental conditions can result in the growing of secondary or tertiary buds, or both. Secondary and tertiary buds are generally less fruitful than the primary bud.

Figure 2.3: Sap balls, or pearls, are a natural exudate and may be found on the underside of grape leves in spring they are not be be confused with insect or mite eggs. Photo: J. K. Clark.

The grape leaf consists of a blade (or lamina), the petiole, and a pair of stipules at the base of the petiole (see fig. 2.1). Full expansion of the mature leaf blade occurs 30 to 40 days after it unfolds from the shoot tip. The upper surface contains very few stomata it may have epicuticular hairs, and it has a well- differentiated layer of epicuticular wax consisting of overlapping platelets. The lower surface lacks a wax layer but can contain epidermal hairs of various types (woolly, glandular, thorny), depending on the cultivar. The lower surface has many stomata arranged in a random nature. There are approximately 170 stomata per mm 2 (110,000 per in 2 ). The leaf blade has five main veins that arise from the petiole at the same point.

In spring under conditions of high temperature and humidity, grape leaves and shoots can produce natural exudates that form sap balls on the underside of leaves, on petioles, and on shoots these balls can be confused with insect or mite eggs (fig. 2.3).

Flowers and Fruit

Grapevines have small flowers, typically 4 to 5 mm (0.17 to 0.20 in) long, that are grouped together in a cluster, or inflorescence. Before bloom the calyptra, a cap of fused petals, encloses the other flower parts. Each calyptra detaches from its base at bloom, exposing pollen-bearing stamens and a pistil with the ovary, the enlarged basal portion ( fig. 2.4). If pollinated, the ovary of each flower may grow and develop into a berry.

Figure 2.4: Stages of grape flower bloom. (1) Grape flower not yet in bloom with cap attached. (2) Flower in early bloom with cap dehiscing. (3) Flower in complete bloom showing ovary and stamens. (4) Pollinator and fertilization of a grape flower.

Each cluster is attached to a shoot by a peduncle the entire length of the main cluster stem framework is referred to as the rachis, with individual berries being attached to the rachis by a pedicel, sometimes referred to as a cap stem (see fig. 2.1). Clusters vary widely in shape and size, depending on the grapevine variety and by the position of the cluster on the shoot. Common cluster shapes are shown in figure 2.5. The classification depends on the number and length of the lateral branches of the cluster stem. Clusters with several well-developed laterals near the peduncle are called shouldered. When the first lateral developing from the peduncle is large and separate from the cluster, it is referred to as a wing.

Figure 2.5: Common grape cluster shapes.

Grapevine Structure

Cultivated grapevines are trained into various forms with the aid of a trellis system that helps support the permanent vine structures, the annual canopy, and the fruit.

The main aboveground structures are the trunk, head, cordons, arms, spurs, and canes. The trunk branches into arms or cordons, depending on the training system. From these arise fruiting wood, 1-year-old dormant wood. This wood may be retained each year as spurs, canes, or both, depending on the grapevine variety and on the cultural practices the vines may be subjected to. Spurs are short fruiting units, 1 to 4 nodes long, with 2 node spurs being the most common. Canes are longer fruiting units that are typically 8 to 15 nodes long. The four main training and pruning systems are shown in figure 2.6.

Figure 2.6: Training and pruning systems.

How to Build a Support for Grape Vines

Grapes grow on vines that require support to thrive. A grape vine will not grow properly on the soil and will not support its own weight. Building supports for grape vines is vital to the proper development of the plant. Build the grape vine supports at the time of planting or at the beginning of the second growing season at the latest. These supports aid in the training and pruning that is necessary to grow grapes.

Use a post hole digger to create a hole 3 feet deep at the end of each row of grape vines. Work down the row, creating holes for each post. Space the posts 16 to 24 feet apart.

  • Grapes grow on vines that require support to thrive.
  • Use a post hole digger to create a hole 3 feet deep at the end of each row of grape vines.

Place a post in each hole. Use a shovel to fill in the hole, and compact the dirt around the post to secure it in place. Repeat this process until you have secured all of the posts.

Place a single 3 ½- to 4-foot stake next to each grape vine to support it. Use a hammer to drive the stake 6 to 12 inches into the ground.

Tie the grape vine with twine to this stake. This provides support for straight growth of the grape vine trunk. This is necessary until the grape vine reaches the bottom wire on the support. Repeat this process for each grape vine.

  • Place a post in each hole.
  • Place a single 3 ½- to 4-foot stake next to each grape vine to support it.

Connect heavy-gauge wire (No. 9 or above) to each end post 3 feet and 5 feet (top of post) above the ground. Run the wires to the other end of the row, connecting them to the other end post and any posts along the row at the same heights.

Train each grape vine to grow onto the lower and upper wires as it matures. Use additional twine to connect the grape vine to the wire.

Grapevine Support Structures: Different Types Of Grapevine Support - garden

Grapevine is an interesting plant not only that it produce some of the best fruit on earth which can be transformed into the wine, but also as the plant itself. Grapevine is a permanent plant but differs from other permanent plants in many ways. So, in order to successfully maintain vine and produce the best possible grapes and thus the wine, it’s important to know each and every grapevine parts and it’s functions. For this reason, we have decided to make a series of posts on grapevine structure.

In the first part, we will shortly introduce all the basic parts of grapevine.

Grapevine is a climber which naturally grows on the trees and bushes, high and in wide shapes. In the vineyard its growth is maintained with the pruning in order to control the quantity and quality of the grapes.

Like any other plant also grapevine has its underground and above-ground part. The underground part consists of an underground trunk with the root system. While the above ground part consists of the trunk, canes, and shoots. On the one-year-old shoots, there are leaves, tendrils, flowers, and grapes.

Photo (Dave Johnson for Bay Area News Group): Grapevine Structure – Overview

Root system – the roots of a grapevine are multi-branched structures that grow to various depths into the soil depending on the variety (rootstock), soil and climate. Some varieties develop very deep and almost vertical roots while others have very flat and shallow roots system and therefore requires deep, fertile soil.

Trunk – is the main steam, it’s permanent and supports the above-ground vegetative (leaves and stems) and reproductive (flowers and fruits) structure of the vine. The height of the trunk and also its branched varies with the selected training system. In cane-pruned training system, the top of the trunk is called the head. Fully developed trunk has arms – short branches from wich canes and spurs originate. Depending on a selected training system arms are located in different positions. In training system that utilize canes (cane-pruned training system) – one-year-old wood arise from arms usually near the head of the vines. While in training system that utilizes cordons (cordon training with spur pruning) arms are spaced at regular intervals along their length. *Cordons are extensions of the trunk that usually grows horizontally along a trellis wire.

Canes – When the shoots mature and woody, it becomes a vine cane. Canes if therefore one year old, woody and, matured shoot after the leaves has fallen off. Canes are the main concerns for winegrowers during the dormant season. With the winter pruning of canes, winegrowers are managing vine size and shape and therefore control the quality of crop in the coming season.

Buds – develop in the leaf axil, right above the connection between the shoot and leave petiole. Inside each bud, there are three distinct growing points, each capable of producing a shoot, also known as primary, secondary and tertiary buds. Bud is actually a highly compressed shoot with all its parts, including cluster. At bud burst normally primary bud begins to grow, but sometimes also secondary or tertiary buds, so there can be two or three shoots on the same axil. In case the primary bud is damaged or freezes, then the secondary or tertiary buds grow in place of the primary bud. In comparison to the primary bud secondary and tertiary buds generally, have little to no fruit.

Shoots – are green stems which develop from buds, and represent the primary growth structure of grapevines. The shoots that arise from primary (winter) buds are normally the fruit-producing shoots. The shoot consists of stems, leaves, tendrils and fruits. *Canopy is a collective term that is used to describe the shoots, leaves, and fruits of the grapevine.

Leaves – The leaves of the grapevine, as any other plant, provide nourishment and air for the plant. Leaves are converting sunlight into usable energy for the plant. More leaves are well sunlit more organic compounds the grapevine can use for its growth. The shape and size of leaves are determined by the grapevine variety, as well as color, which varies from light to dark green.

Tendrils – are a slender structure that appears on the top and sides of stems. They grow until the grapevine is ready for harvest, after the harvest they become wooden in nature. Since the grapevine is a climber it needs tendrils to coil around small objects such as fences, trellises, etc. to reach up for the sun and heat. Tendril and flower cluster have a common development origin, therefore, we might find flowers design developed at the end of the tendril.

Flowers and Grapes – Flower cluster grow on the opposite site then leaves along the shoot. Most fruitful shoots develop from one to three flower clusters depending on the variety and growing conditions. Each cluster may contain only a few or up to several hundred flowers at the time of bloom the number depends on the variety and environmental conditions. When fertilized, the flower clusters develop into clusters of grapes – the fruit set – and the berries start to grow.

Watch the video: It is Finished - Pastor Doug Batchelor


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