Did you know that there were tons of grapes produced around the United States in the past year? Just imagine how many grape trellises that were to help support all of these plants. Although it was the practice to grow grapes with the supporting grape trellis years ago, and some vineyards still follow this practice, many people prefer to have a dedicated grape trellis in the yard. This is especially helpful when the plants are smaller.
Grape vines can ramble quite a bit, so it can get very messy very quickly without a supporting trellis. A trellis allows you to grow your grape vines wherever you want, and it can help make the vine healthier overall while creating an edible focal point in your yard. There are several ways you can design and build a grape trellis in a weekend, and we’ll touch on a few step-by-step guides.
We’ve only included sturdy options, and you may be able to upcycle any existing materials you have laying around your yard or out in your shed during the build process. The goal is to give you a grape trellis that will outline your plants, and you can do so by gathering the following:
Grape plants tend to ramble and spread out if they don’t have support, so a grape trellis can keep everything neat while improving the fruit production.
- 1 – plastic safety cap for star picket
- 2 – Bolts 6mm x 50mm with matching nuts and washers
- 30 feet – 12 gauge plastic coated or galvanized wire
- 3 – 8 foot steel star pickets (x3)
- 3 – burnbuckles – or some other way of tensioning the wire
- Club hammer – or something to hammer star pickets into the ground
- Drill with 8mm drill bit
- Pliers or wire cutters
Step 1 – Determine Your Grape Trellis Location
The orientation of your grape trellis should run lengthwise north to south in your yard to help maximize how much sunlight the plants get each day. Also, this ensures they won’t shade out any other garden setup you have going on. If you choose to use your grape trellis for shade, you want to pick out a spot for it to run lengthwise across the direction you want to block out the sun. For example, if you want to block the midday sun and you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you’d put it in the northernmost point running west to east.
Step 2 – Drill Your Star Pickets
Next, you want to lay your star picket posts on the ground, and make sure you put the sides that have the holes facing inwards. This is important because you string the wires through these holes when you assemble your grape trellis in an upside down “U” shape. Next, hold the edges flat against one another as closely as you can to figure out where to drill the holes to bold your posts together.
Once you find this spot, you want to drill one hole at the top of each upright post. Then, you’ll drill two holes on the horizontal post with one hole by the top and the other by the bottom or pointed end. At this point, don’t start the assembly process yet.
Step 3 – Drive Your Star Pickets Into the Ground at the Correct Distance
You’ll need to hammer your posts into the ground, and you want to make sure they’re the correct distance apart so you can bolt them together. In harder or clay-based soils, you can hammer the posts into the ground using a longer club hammer. If you have loose soil that can’t support the posts enough, you’ll have to dig the holes to the correct depth, using the guide we outlined below. Then, you’ll have to secure your posts using one of the following methods to ensure they stay upright:
- Concrete – Concrete will give you an even more secure fit, but you have to hold the posts in place very securely and straight until the concrete sets. To do this, you’ll use some type of support, like a teepee structure made using three timber stakes that you tie together on top and fill in the hole with concrete.
- Gravel – Using gravel, you’ll set the posts into the holes you dug, hold them straight, and fill the hole in with gravel before packing it down around it.
It’s very important that your post holes are secure and sturdy as your grape vines can get very heavy as they grow.
How Deep to Dig Your Post Holes
Generally speaking, when you set your grape trellis posts or any post type into the ground, you want to get ⅓ of the total length below the ground and ⅔ of the total length above the ground. Divide your post’s height by ⅓, and this is the depth of the hole you’ll dig. The simple way to accomplish this is to divide your post’s length by three and sink the bottom third in the ground. So, if you have a six-foot post, you’ll put two feet in the ground and have four feet sticking out above the ground. If you need your posts to stick out of the ground more, you’ll need higher posts.
How Wide to Dig You Post Holes
Again, the general rule for digging post holes into the ground is to make the hole three times the diameter of the post’s width. So, if the post is four-inches wide, the hole should be four times wider, or 12 inches. Once you get the posts in the ground, you want to attach the horizontal post across the top using the 6mm by 50mm bolts with matching washers and nuts. Put the washers under the nuts to make it easier to tighten and prevent the bolts from loosening up.
If your posts are too high, you can drive them deeper into the ground until your grape trellis reaches your desired height. For example, you could drive eight-foot posts 2.5-feet into the ground to create a 5.5-foot high trellis. Depending on your soil’s firmness level, this should hold very securely. On another note, if you put your trellis by the edge of a raised garden bed, the vertical supports can get attached and fastened to the side of the bed to get the whole setup more support.
Step 4 – Attach the Wire
Using your 12-gauge galvanized or plastic coated wire, you’ll run it through the holes on the inner edges to create the vertical supports on your grape trellis to the desired heights. If you’re using turnbuckles to tighten the wire, you’ll attach the wire to one side only. If you’re going to put your turnbuckles on the left, you should only attach the wires to the post on the right.
Before you use the turnbuckles, you’ll wind them out to lengthen them so you can wind them back in later on to shorten them up and tension the wire. Attach wire to each turnbuckle, and make sure you start with the bottom one and work up. Turn the turnbuckles to get a nice, taut wire. Remember that this is an option but a recommended step when you’re building your grape trellis. Small galvanized turnbuckles are relatively inexpensive, and they get precise tension and adjustments to the wire.
Spacing to Use Between the Wires
Wire spacing is a personal preference when it comes down to it, but spacing it 12-inches to 18-inches between the wire is the recommended distance for your grape vines. Using three or four wires, you want to build a support system where the lowest wire sits approximately two-inches above the ground.
Step 5 – Plant Your Grape Vine and Attach it to Your Grape Trellis
Now that you created the support system, you can plant your grapevine. Once you get it planted, tie the canes loosely to the support wire to start training it to grow up and on your grape trellis for support.
Single Wire Grape Vine Trellis Setup
If you’re not sure you want to take on the slightly more complicated grape trellis we outlined earlier, this single-wire option is a great thing to consider.
Construction Materials and Tools:
- 4 by 4 posts
- Eyelet screws
- Metal T-post
- No. 9 wire
- Concrete (Optional)
You’ll build this grape trellis by putting four by four posts 15 feet apart. It may be a bit grand for what you need, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. You’ll start by putting the posts two feet deep and anchoring them with some cement or gravel. If the soil is loose, it’s a good idea to use cement to ensure they stay straight and upright.
One top of each post, once you get it secured in the ground, you’ll screw in eyelet hooks to run your wire through it. You can also skip the eyelets and cut a groove into the top of the post to hold the wire or staple it in place. Put an anchor on each end to keep the wire tight so it supports your vines.
Ideally, you’ll use something like a three-foot, metal T post that you hammer roughly 2 ½ feet into the ground at a 45° angle, roughly four feet from your post. Attach your turnbuckles to each end of the wire after you thread it through the eyelets and hook them onto the anchors on the end before tensioning the wire.
Double Wire Grape Trellis Setup
A double wire grape trellis can give you roughly 30% more fruit than a single wire setup, and you can use it if you have more space in your orchard, garden, or yard.
Construction Materials and Tools:
- 2 by 6 lumber
- 4 by 4 posts
- Eyelet screws
- Metal T-post
- No. 9 wire
- Concrete (optional)
To build a double wire grape trellis, you’ll want to install treated 4 by 4 posts roughly 15 feet apart. Attach a four-foot long cross arm using 2 by 6 treated lumber at the top of each post you set into the ground using concrete or gravel. Drill holes a few inches in from the outer edge of the cross arms and run your No. 9 wire through them.
Use your T-post, or whatever anchoring system you like, and pound it into the ground at a 45° angle away from your post and attach the wire while keeping it tight. You can use your turnbuckle to attach the wires to the anchors, and this will help you get the perfect tension on the wires.
No matter if you have a single or double-wire grape trellis, you want to make sure the wires are taut and sturdy enough to support your plant growth.
There are some miscellaneous things we didn’t cover during the main building process that can be useful to help you get a sturdy setup for your grape trellis. This includes:
How to Use a Barrel Roll and Haywire Twist to Tie Wires to Posts
To fasten the wire to the turnbuckle eyelets, or straight to the holes in your posts, you can get a very secure finish by using a method that is called the Haywire Twist and Barrel Roll. If you’re curious, we’ll detail it for you below.
To start, you thread your 12-gauge wire through the eyelet before rotating the loop to form a twist. You should repeat this rotating motion to get three or four full twists. Next, bend back the end to form a right angle bend to the main wire in your build. Finally, wrap the end of the wire into three or four tight rolls around the main strand of wire or to the standing form to get the barrel rolls and finish the process with a sturdy tie.
Use Three or Four Barrel Rolls to Tie the Wire Straight to the Post
If you’re not familiar with using turnbuckles, they are handy devices that you use to adjust the tension on any wire you string between two points. These items can have two hooks on either end or two threaded eyelets on each end. They can also have a hook on one end and an eyelet on the other.
These ends get screwed into a long metal body at each end. One eyelet has a left-hand thread on it while the other has a right-hand thread. By routine the metal body while you have both ends securely fastened, you can adjust the tension of the wire by making both ends simultaneously screw in or out. You use turnbuckles to tension wire, and they can have eyelets or hooks on the ends.
- HappyDIYHome Tip: When you use a turnbuckle, you’ll want to wind them out to lengthen them. Once you wire them in place, you can turn to shorten them and tension the wire.
When you have turnbuckles with two eyelets, you’ll fasten one end to the post using a short piece of wire before fastening the long wire from the other post to the other eyelet. If your turnbuckle has an eyelet and a hook, you can attach the hook straight into the hole you drilled in the post if it’ll fit.
How to Prune Grape Vines During Summer
You use dormant pruning to help develop the framework for the growing plant, but summer pruning will help you manage the leafy canopy your grapevine produces. Summer pruning is best done early in the season, and you should aim for around June. This will help to ensure that the vine gets all of the sunlight and nutrients it needs for the active growing season.
When you prune your grape vines during the summer, you want to remove any unproductive that are stopping the light from reaching your fruiting canes. Cut the side shoots and lower leaves around the grape bunches later in the season to help ensure that the sunlight can reach the grapes as they start to mature. Each shoot should have between 14 and 16 leaves that get a lot of sunlight. Otherwise, the shoot won’t have enough energy to produce and ripen the grapes on your grape trellis.
How to Prune Grape Vines During Dormancy
When you prune your dormant grape vines, this helps to develop a framework for the plant to manage new growth. The later you prune the plants in the winter, the later the vine will grow during the spring months. However, if the temperatures dip below -10°F, this can cause cold injury to your plant. So, it’s best to do your dormant pruning during February and March as the weather starts to warm slightly.
Grapes are more labor-intensive than many plants as they require thorough but careful planning and attention each year in the form of pruning.
How to Prune Grape Vines: Cane Pruning
To do cane pruning on your grape vines, you’ll need to establish one permanent trunk. Every dormant season, you’ll cut back every plant to create one cane that will grow new shoots. Renewal spurs will grow shoots as the new fruiting canes in the spring. You can tie the grape canes to your grape trellis wires to use as lateral arms.
Timeline for Cane Pruning
To have success with this pruning method, you’ll have to realize that it’s a multi-year process that takes patience and deduction.
Year One: Growth
- Plant however many grape vines you want and allow them to grow. You won’t prune anything until next year after they establish themselves.
Year Two: Develop the Main Trunk for the Vine
- Let one main cane grow to the mature height before pruning it right above the plant’s bud. This will form the permanent trunk of the grape vine plant. The top bud will grow lateral arms to form the vine framework, and the buds below this point will grow new canes by shooting out.
Year Three: Renew the Lateral Canes
- Prune one or two canes on each side of the permanent trunk over the grape trellis wire until there are roughly 12 buds left. These 12 buds will eventually form the fruiting canes and produce grapes.
- Pick one cane on each side of the main trunk and prune it until it has two buds left to use as a renewal spur. This will eventually grow the canes that you can use next year as lateral arms. You can safely remove all other wood.
Mature Vines: Maintaining the Framework for Your Grape Trellis
- Prune anything that is above the top bud on your renewal spurs from the previous growing season. This will leave you with a long fruiting cane on either side of the main vine. You can prune the lower bud to 12 buds per cane to fruit, or you can take them down to 2 buds to form next season’s fruiting canes.
- Prune a fruiting cane from the last growing season on either side of your main trunk to form 2 bud renewal spurs to start the process all over.
How to Prune Grape Vines: Spur Pruning
When you learn how to use the spur pruning method to prune your grape vines, you’ll use the cordon system. Cordons are canes that went dormant and stayed on the vine for two to three seasons. So, you’ll have cordons two or three years after the initial planting process.
The cordons will quickly grow new shoots each growing season, and you’ll cut them back from roughly 10 buds per spur to 1 bud. The buds you leave on this spur will form the fruiting canes for next season. This is a very controlled growth method that is called cordon training, and you’ll repeat the following steps on each plant every dormant season.
Spur Pruning Timeline
Again, this is a multi-year process that takes dedication and has a slightly steep learning curve, but the end result is a bountiful edible plant for your garden.
Year One: Growth
- Plant your chosen grape vine and allow them to grow for a full year. You won’t start pruning anything until next season.
Year Two: Select the Main Trunk
- Pick a strong cane to be your plant’s main trunk. Let it grow to a nice height that allows you to easily harvest your grapes when the time comes.
- Once you pick it out, cut the cane you picked right above the bud. All of the buds below this cut point will shoot out to form lateral arms.
Year Three: Develop Your Healthy Cordon Framework
- Pick a healthy cane on both sides of your main trunk to grow as your cordon branches.
- Train your cordons to each side to grow over your grape trellis wires. The buds on these coronds will be the fruiting canes during summer.
Year Four: Choose the Spurs
- Next, pick canes on the cordon that don’t have any diseases and that are in the correct position to be manageable as a canopy. Prune these selected canes back to three buds. There should be a bud at the base and two above it.
- Remove all of the other growth from the plant, including any shoots you find along the trunk’s base.
Mature Vines: Preserving Your Cordon System
- Cut the top half of the spur with any new growth off while ensuring you leave one bud above the base of the spur you used last year. You should have one spur left above the base at this point. It’ll have canes from last year on it, and you want to cut it down to two buds above the base for the following year.
- Finish by pruning away any other growth you see.
Each year when you prune the spurs, the spur will develop further down your cordon. This exposes the leaves and increases their risks of cold injury. Also, after roughly 10 years, there will be a longer barren portion of cordon that will limit how much each plant produces on your grape trellis. Performing cordon renewal will let you keep the same plant and vine, but it’ll protect the quantity and quality of your harvest.
- Ensure that each plant’s root system is healthy. If the roots have disease issues, the entire vine may have to go and be replaced.
- Allow one cordon shoot by the base of the vine to grow up to the grape trellis framework. Train this new growth to run laterally along the trellis wires and cut away the old cordon.
Setting up a grape trellis in your yard can be a great DIY project for a weekend that you can do on your own or with minimal help. You can easily set up several if you have a large enough yard and train your grape plants to grow and shade strategic areas in your yard to protect your other plants.