After planting, your grapevine requires ongoing care and maintenance. Here you will find details about watering, tying, and soil care. Young vines need to show vigorous growth in order to be trained further; otherwise, they have to grow on for another year. What follows after the 1st year depends on the chosen form of training.
During the first year, the vine has to develop one strong, long, and well lignified shoot to become the future trunk (image 01). This shoot grows directly from the grafting point ('bud union') or immediately above. Any other shoots should be removed.
If you have planted a potted vine which already has a lignified stem above the bud union with several eyes (buds) or green shoots, the lowest of all shoots is used while all others are removed. The upper part of the stem is cut off. The small main shoot is then tied onto the stake, e.g. with rubber cord/band. Occasionally it will already produce a grape cluster, which is best removed. Axillary shoots which grow occasionally from the (leaf) axil remain on the plant. Breaking off such shoots directly at the axil on the green main shoot can damage the important eye developing there, or it may cause premature bud burst ("bud break") (Image 02).
It is beneficial to cover the planting area with a layer of 5-8 cm of grass clippings, leaf litter, or straw, and to regularly renew that layer to prevent the soil from drying out and to control weeds competing for nutrients. During the first year at least, do not attempt to grow any groundcovers such as grass or flowers around the vine.
In the vineyard, the vines can survive purely on rainwater after planting. Vintners (winemakers) say that the vines must "go hungry." This stimulates the roots to grow deep into the earth (up to 30 meters!) in search of water. This is beneficial for aroma development, but not for fruit size. That is why table grapes are treated differently; that is, they are watered more. In the first year it's enough to water every 2 - 3 weeks, a bit more often during dry times. Special attention must be given to vines which grow under eaves (or similar) and receive hardly any rain.
Grapevines growing in average garden soils ranging from a humus-sand mix to a loamy soil should not be fertilised again after planting. Otherwise the vines grow too vigorously and become susceptible to fungal diseases.
Depending on the variety, the shoot must mature to a golden-brown, brown-red or grey-brown colour. This lignification, which starts at the base of the stem, becomes visible as of late summer. Ultimately, the shoot should be at least as thick as a pencil, and usually reaches a length of 2 - 4 metres (Image 03). If the vine is to be trained without a long main trunk, the shoot can be trimmed back to about 1.5 m around the end of August, to promote lignification and the maturation of the lower buds (summer pruning - Image 04). Training tall vines requires no summer pruning.
During summer the main shoot grows about 2 - 3 cm per day, resulting in a curved and slightly limp looking shoot tip (Image 05). This indicates that the vine is healthy and its growth vigorous. However, if the tip of the shoot looks somewhat stunted and has hardly unfurled (Image 06), it means that the vine is stagnating. This requires action. Is there enough soil moisture? Does the plant receive enough light and heat? Are there other plants in the vicinity such that the vine suffer from root competition? The latter is usually the main issue. In this case, the other plants must either be removed or the vine transplanted.
It is not worth it to train a plant with a weak main shoot. If, despite optimal conditions, the plant has grown only a short shoot which isn't at least as thick as a pencil by autumn, then the vine should be cut back to 2 spurs (Image 07). The vine then has to "repeat" the first year again in order to develop a vigorous main stem.