I need to find someone to save a grape vine. My neighbor had a grape vine...

Asked May 26, 2016, 2:32 PM EDT

I need to find someone to save a grape vine. My neighbor had a grape vine that I have been getting grapes from for many years, but sahe would never give it any care. She recently passed and the new owner and I would like to save it if it is possible. It has not been pruned in many years and we are afraid if we try to do something at this point we will lose it for sure

Lucas County Ohio

1 Response

There is an art to pruning grapevines, and while many plants can tolerate an Oops! or two, grapes are less forgiving. The first step in deciding whether to keep the vines or replace them is to check for the presence of mildew. Because these vines have not been tended in many years, there might not be fruit to check, although you can see whether the canes are brown or a lilac color. Anything other than brown might indicate mildew. Your best bet is to check with your local Extension Service or Master Gardener hotline to have someone determine whether the canes look infected. If they are, it might be best to replace the vine. New cultivars have been bred for mildew resistance and other desirable qualities, and a good vine does not that that long to establish. You can expect decent yields from a new vine after about three years.

If , however, you are determined to save the plant, you should still contact your extension service for help in pruning correctly. You must find the strongest canes from the base of the grapevine and turn them into the main trunks. The rest can be removed and the horizontal canes tied to the top wire (that's assuming the structure for the vines is still there). From that point grapevines must be pruned each year. Bad pruning is almost more tolerable to a grapevine that neglect.

You might also try to propagate from the original vine by a technique called layering. Pick a long shoot from the vine and bury part of it in the ground. Allow the top of the cane to grow upward; eventually the part that is buried will grow roots. From this point, you can treat the new vine as a one-year-old vine and start training it correctly.
An excellent guide on grapevines and other fruit is "Midwest Home Fruit Production Guide, Bulletin 940" by Dr. Gary Gao, ed., Ron Becker, Dr. Maurus Brown, Dr. Mike Ellis and Dr. Steve Prochaska, all of Ohio State University Extension, (c) 2009.

Here are some other resources:


Grapes fresh from the vine are a treat few people can even dream about. Witha little help, you may be able to rescue your neighbor's vine and restore some memories along with it. Good luck.

And I apologize for the length of time I took on this answer. We aim to get back within 24 hours, and I got distracted. Don't judge Ask an Expert by my tardiness. Thank you for your patience.