The pruning of the vine

The pruning of the vine

The pruning of the vine is certainly one of the most important practices in the care of the vineyard, because it can have a decisive impact on the quality and quantity of grapes produced.

Realistically, to learn how to prune the vine in detail, you should attend a course or make use of the support of a technician, here we begin to outline some criteria and techniques that are still useful for starting to practice vineyard pruning.

So let's see what are the main interventions to be carried out in the vegetative rest season and in the spring-summer one and which are the most used forms of farming in the vineyards.

Why prune the vine

The main goal of vine pruning is to maintain production consistency, a balance between the vegetative activity of the plant and fruiting for a good quality of the grapes.

Prune regularly and correctly it also helps keep the plant healthy, because well-ventilated and illuminated hair reduces the risk of onset of pathologies. So we can say that it is our duty to devote time and attention to this work, which however requires us to know at least the basics of the physiology of this plant.

Basic glossary: ​​shoots, fruit heads, spurs

The branch in the vine is a one-year-old branch. The sprout that is released in spring during the summer lignifies, according to the process that is called "August”And which also applies to other fruit trees. From that moment it becomes a branch and the following year it brings buds in turn that will give life to fruiting shoots, and so on.

The shoots, after winter pruning, are called "fruiting heads”And they can be shorter or longer depending on how many gems are left after cutting.

If the shoot is shortened to 2 or 3 buds it is called "spur”.

Forms and breeding pruning

The training method is chosen both in relation to the vine that is cultivated and to the tradition of the territory, but generally the two things also go hand in hand.

We keep in mind that the vine plants that are planted are called "cuttings", are grafted, and is recommended let them grow free for the entire first year, so that they develop the root system well.

Only afterwards do the first cuts begin that lead to shape the plant. We see below some of the most commonly used forms of farming in vineyards.


It is a very ancient form of wall farming, which takes its name from the person who spread it in the second half of the nineteenth century. Guyot can be adapted to the majority of vines, especially in the hills, and it is a system that provides for keep the stem about 80 cm from the ground and keep a fruit-bearing head stretched out horizontally along a wire.

The fruiting head is provided with a variable number of buds, generally between 8 and 12, from which the fruit-bearing shoots develop vertically, tied to the metal threads. Next to the fruit head there is a spur, another branch cut into 2 buds with winter pruning, which serves to replace, in the following year, the fruit head it has produced and which must be cut. Each year, therefore, when pruning, the spur and the fruiting head are renewed starting from the two buds present on the spur itself.

Upside down

The inverted is a variant of the Guyot, where the fruit head, instead of being held horizontally, is folded and tied to the underlying thread.

Another variant is the double upside down, which has two shoots that are located one to the right and one to the left of the stem, but this solution is suitable if the soil is fertile and the vine is vigorous.

Spurred cordon

The spurred cordon is another system Wall which is based on the severe pruning, as the shoots, both vegetative and productive, are spurs, pruned to 3 buds at most. The spurs are arranged in a row on the extension of the stem (cord) which is curved so that it is horizontal, parallel to the threads.

Fruiting shoots originate from the buds of the spurs, and every year the spurs are renewed.


It is a form of farming in the process of abandonment, practiced both in drought and cold areas, therefore due to two different types of limiting climatic factors which however lead to the same choice. The sapling vine plant in practice it sustains itself without the need for supports, because it is kept low, with a short trunk from which branches that carry the productive shoots branch off. For growing a few isolated plants, and also for growing in pots, this can be a good solution.

Vine pergola

A vine pergola under which to have lunch all together as seen in many films and advertisements set in country houses can be very evocative and pleasant, so why not try to make it? To get there you have to build a horizontal roof frame and planting near it some vines, which will climb it thanks to their gripping organs (tendrils) and will form the shoots and fruit heads.

When pruning the vine

The vineyard has two periods of pruning in the year, in which different interventions are carried out: winter pruning during vegetative rest and summer pruning. If in most fruit plants winter intervention is the main one, summer cutting is also very important for vines.

Pruning period:

  • Winter pruning (dry pruning): from November to March.
  • Summer pruning (green pruning): various operations to be done during the vegetative period, between late spring and summer.

Winter pruning

Winter pruning or dry pruning is the set of all cutting operations that are carried out during the vegetative rest and which depend on the type of training chosen.

When to prune in winter

Winter pruning takes place in the period included between November and March, and in every place and year, anticipating or postponing this moment can have effects, even if desired.

For example, late pruning, almost close to weeping, has the consequence of delaying budding, and this can be a specially adopted strategy in those areas subject to spring frosts, to reduce the risk.

How much to prune

The extent of pruning, in general, without considering only the forms of cultivation described above, is defined according to two distinctions,

The first:

  • Short pruning: when the shoots are cut into spurs and are left with a maximum of 3 buds.
  • Long pruning: when the shoots are shortened so as to still have many buds, in a variable number up to about 20.

The second:

  • Poor pruning: when fewer than 10 total buds are left per plant.
  • Rich pruning: when more than 20 buds are left per plant.

The number of buds left on each plant affects the quantity and quality of the grapes that will be produced and therefore we must be careful of the balance between the two parameters. Leaving many buds in fact leads to an abundant production of grapes, which however will perhaps have a low sugar content and a low content of aromatic compounds and dyes. It can be pruned in this way in the presence of fertile soils, while on poor soils and arid environments it is necessary to cut more to ensure nourishment to all the clusters of the plant.

Summer pruning

Summer pruning or green pruning is the set of interventions that are carried out during the growing season of the plant, and is generally laborious and no less important than winter pruning.

However, the actual extent of summer pruning depends on many factors:

  • Climatic trend of the vintage.
  • Plant vigor.
  • Training system adopted.

In prestigious vines, summer pruning is always necessary to ensure the quality of production and to reduce the risks of some diseases favored by shading and stagnation of humidity typical of dense foliage.

Let's see what they consist of.

Spollonatura and scacchimento

The suckling consists in removing the shoots, improperly called suckers and more exactly suckers, that arise from the latent buds along the stem. These would exert a competition with the productive shoots and if they are caught in time, when they are 10-15 cm long at most, they can also be removed manually, without scissors.

Scacchiatura: is the removal of excess shoots from shoots and spurs, in such a way that only one remains for each knot, and serves to avoid having too dense hair. It is an operation to be carried out by hand, and with the necessary expertise to choose the best sprouts to leave.

Sprouts binding

In the forms of training such as those described above (guyot, spurred cordon, ...) which include horizontally stretched wires, the shoots must be tied to the latter in order to correctly direct the growth of the plant to the wall along the supports.


The topping consists of removal of the tips of the shoots and young leaves that have grown beyond the last strands.

This operation must be carried out between the fruit set and the closure of the bunches (end of June-mid-July) and not too far, to prevent the plant from reacting by emitting too many feminines at a time when instead it has to channel its resources in the ripening of the bunches .

Peeling and thinning of the bunches

Leafing: in the event that the clusters are excessively covered by the leaves, the excess ones are eliminated to guarantee them enough light and avoid the creation of a humid microclimate around them, which would favor the onset of fungal diseases such as downy mildew and botrytis. However, if the clusters are already uncovered and illuminated it is not necessary to browse.

Cluster thinning: it is not always necessary, on the contrary, if during the winter pruning a balanced load of buds is kept on the plant, the bunches that develop are generally in a suitable number to guarantee good quality productions. In some cases, however, to improve the sugar content of the grapes and therefore of the must, bunches that are considered to be too much are removed, just before veraison, or the color of the berries.

Precautions after pruning

Vine plants when pruned undergo cuts from which pathogens could enter, and in fact they are usually treated with cupric products for preventive purposes.

Alternatively we can try treatments with propolis-based products, which perform protective functions based on the incredible properties of this substance made by bees.

Pruning residues can be used to feed compost after shredding.

Video: Old Vine Pruning Part I