All grape vines, regardless of the variety of grape, need support to flourish and produce. Two primary options for supporting vines exists. One is more for the serious and results-oriented grower, the other is designed for more aesthetically-oriented growers. Keep in mind that while most home gardening results in produce that grows and dies quickly, growing and maintaining grape vines is a commitment that lasts for years.
Wire Fences And Rail Fences
Fences offer fantastic support for growing and training (or shaping) new vines. New vines are best planted in the spring, and for the first spring, summer and fall, the vine will not need structural support. Approaching the vine's first winter, the strongest upright shoot should be chosen as the de facto trunk, and this trunk should be tied to the lowest rail or wire support of the fence. Trim this shoot, leaving two or three of the buds.
The following spring, the strongest new upright shoot or fruiting cane should be chosen as the new trunk. The previous trunk will have been "trained" at this point and can be unsecured. The new trunk should also be fastened to another rail or wire support to continue growing.
That summer, this second trunk of the vine should have reached the top of a typical 3 to 4 foot high fence. The vine should then be trained to grow sideways by cutting the tip of the tallest fruiting cane growing from the second trunk, and securing this to the top rang or wire.
Arbors And Pergolas
The benefit of arbors and pergolas over wire or rails is an aesthetic one. Although an untrained grape vine will grow over an arbor or pergola, it will not grow over the structure the way that you want it to. The fruit yield and quality can suffer from lack of training and pruning.
Proper training and pruning of a vine over an arbor or pergola is a similar process to that of one on a wire or rail fence. The strongest shoots for each winter season should be chosen and secured to a nearby rang or opening in the arbor or pergola. Buds should be trimmed so that only a few remain on each fruiting cane.
The big difference is you do not need to cut the tip of the tallest fruiting cane because lateral growth is not needed. Training the vine by temporarily securing successive shoots and trimming the buds on these new shoots is the focus on arbors.
Maintenance Through Pruning
Any type of support constructed for grapes will be rendered useless in time if vines are not pruned by pinching the tips. Vines that aren't pruned can lead to rotting fruit, sick vines and broken supports.
Experienced grape growers say it is crucial for the grape vines to be pruned regularly during the initial three years. Yearly pruning will be necessary for the remainder of the life of the vines.