How to build a trellis for grape vines

Grape    SC

How do I build a trellis that is suitable for grape growing? Is it similar to raspberries or are there other ways to do it?

Posted by: Melanie Young (6 points) Melanie Young
Posted: February 22, 2013


The use of a trellis when growing grape vines is of the utmost importance. Not only does the trellis support the weight of the fruit, but it spreads the grape canopy ensuring sunlight penetrates to all parts of the plant in addition to promoting good air circulation which is essential for keeping down the incidence of diseases which may harm the developing fruit.

Grape trellises can be quite simple depending on the design you go for. You may also consider a decorative option such as training your vines to grow on an arbor or porch. The choice really depends on the variety of grape you are trying to grow and also on personal preference.

Perhaps the simplest of grape trellis designs is what is known as a high cordon system (or high wire cordon system; see Figure 1). This type of trellis can be built with only one wire stretched between posts and the cordons (arms) of the grapevine are trained horizontally along the wire. With this design, you should allow 6 to 8 ft between vines and 7 to 8 ft between rows. This type of trellis is suitable for American varieties and most American-French hybrids as they have a downward growth habit.

Another system suitable for American grapes and hybrids is the Umbrella kniffen system. With this system, there are two wires (upper and lower) stretched between posts. The trunk (or trunks) grow to the uppermost wire and 4+ canes are bent over the wire, while the rest are removed. The tips of the bent canes are tied to the lower wire to create an arrangement that resembles an umbrella (see Figure 1).

If the chosen variety is French then it is likely that the plant will have an upward growth habit and the trellis design will need to reflect this. One of the most commonly used trellises for upwardly growing vines is the Vertical Shoot Position (VSP) system. The VSP system is suitable for smaller varieties and generally consists of between 4 and 6 wires stretched between posts. The cordons are trained to grow along the bottom-most wire which is usually positioned about 3 ft from the ground. The shoots are then trained to grow upwards using the wires above (see Figure 2). It is common to prune the shoot tips to a uniform height and create a hedge-like appearance.

Posted by: Lindsay McMenemy (2 points) Lindsay McMenemy
Posted: April 9, 2013

Here are two images of how I did it in my garden. If I'd do it again, I would probably use more sturdy posts, and maybe no wooden posts in the first place. But other than that it's really quite simple. I have two rows and there isn't much space between the rows - depending on your needs you may want to change that (I'm guessing the more space the better).

Posted by: deactivated (25 points) deactivated
Posted: May 5, 2013

In theory I guess you could follow the same plans for grapes in SC. Depending on the variety of grape you'll need a more substantial trellis system though. For your location you'll be growing either hybrids or muscadine, which are generally going to have a substantial amount of vegetative growth. The point of grape trellis systems is to increase the amount of light that gets on the plant parts....so you don't want shading in the interior that usually occurs with raspberries. I'd say pick up a book on growing grapes, or explore Cornell's extension website to look into the different grape trellis designs and which varieties do well with them.

Posted by: Kathryn Fiedler (72 points) Kathryn Fiedler
Posted: March 19, 2013

David Hughes commented,
Do please feel free to post links to the Cornell site or some other source. I often like to have videos as they are great ways to share since sometimes they walk a person through the process.
about 8 years ago.

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