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Winterizing Grape Vines

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Depending on weather conditions and a climate, the grape vines can be treated differently to winterize it. In warm climates, where the winter temperature rarely dips below freezing, grape vines require no special winter protection. However, if you are trying to grow grapes in cold climate, you will need to winterize the grape vines to protect them against the biting cold and heavy snow.

Grape Vine

Grape Vine

Grow cold hardy varieties of grapes to have a better chance of success. Beta, Kay Gray, St. Croix, Valiant or Worden are all juice or table grapes to consider. Wine grapes tend to be more sensitive to cold. Grape plants naturally begin a process of hardening off in the fall after the grapes are harvested. The vines shed their leaves and enter a period of dormancy in preparation for cold weather. Grape growers in cold climates must give their plants special attention in the fall to protect them from cold damage and help them survive the winter.

Grapes in Frost

Grapes in Frost

Get Grape Vines Ready for Winter

  • Reduce watering and do not fertilize after the grapes are harvested. This will help to ease the vines into dormancy. Keep weeds under control and treat any fungi or disease on your grape vines. Use a pre-emergent weed control product around your grape plants in the fall to reduce weeds throughout the winter.
  • Prune your grapes each year so that the plant is a single trunk that can easily be removed from its trellis. Normally, grape vines are pruned to have several “arms” that permanently attach themselves to a trellis, but in cold regions, you will need to cover the vine in winter, so you will want to trim it to be easy to work with. Pruning is typically done when a grape plant is dormant, usually in late autumn.
  • Detach the grape vine from the trellis at the end of the growing season, after all the leaves have fallen off the plant. Cut back any new shoots to within a few inches of the trunk, but make sure there are one or two buds left at each base. Do not worry if you need to cut the vine back severely.
  • Remove the mounded dirt, hay, or straw as soon as the risk of frost has passed but before buds on the vines begin to sprout. Leaving wet mulch around the roots can lead to fungal growth.
  • Cover the vine with at least six to eight inches of soil or mulch, such as dried leaves, straw or shredded bark. Check on the grape vines several times before the snowfall to make sure that the mulch is not displaced. In very cold locations, you may need a thicker layer of mulch.
  • Tie the trunk onto the trellis. As new growth forms, train the shoots to grow straight up so that they will be easier to prune back later.

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