Grape Trellis Usage & Guidelines

Grapevines, like all vines, cannot support their own weight and need a trellis to bear the load of the arms and the fruit bearing canes. One of the advantages of the grape trellis is that space is not an issue and grapes can be grown in a backyard just as well as in a large vineyard of several hundred acres.

The grape trellis comes in a variety of styles to suit both the grape and the owner. It can be made simply from wooden posts, constructed at home, with wires between, or it can be purchased ready made. It could be decorative, to suit the surroundings, or purely functional. The posts can be made from treated wood, iron, steel, aluminum or even PVC pipe. A vine is a fairly large plant so each one will need a six to eight feet square and each one will produce about a gallon of wine.

The trellis is going to last as long as the vine is productive, which may be several thousand years, so it needs to be carefully positioned – before planting the vines – and secured deep enough into the ground. It may be necessary to bed the posts in concrete if the posts are large and the ground is soft. In warmer climates where European grapes are growing the trellis can be quite low, about three feet high, as these grapes tend grow upward. Hybrid grapes tend to grow downward so a higher trellis is needed for these, up to six or eight feet high.

You may need to secure the posts of the grape trellis with catch wires, particularly the taller posts, and run galvanized metal wires between them; one a few inches off the ground and another near the top, and secured to the posts with a staple gun. The early years of the vine will need some careful management by you to encourage the vine to grow up along these wires using twine, cloth or plastic tape to tie the shoots. Using wire to tie the shoots may damage the vine while it is still growing.

It is worth reading about the variety of trellis styles available and choosing one based on both the needs of the grape variety being grown and the site where it is going. Purchasing the trellis is better for the small grower as the cost is not as big an investment as for a large commercial vineyard and gives you more options. Just remember that the planning and measuring must be done carefully to ensure you get the right one for you and then make sure it is placed carefully and securely in the site.

Once the grape trellis is in place you must encourage the vine to grow onto it. This requires a bit of time while the vine is still young but once it’s established and productive it can be left alone. The vine will only need pruning back each year in the dormant season to keep growing new grape bearing canes along its established arms.