Grapes: the Guyot pruning system

The Guyot pruning system is used for grape vines grown for wine and dessert grapes outdoors. This system trains one or two fruiting arms along a main wire. It is commonly used on commercial vineyards, but is easily adapted for the home gardener.

A grape vine pruned according to the Guyot system. Image: RHS/Tim Sandall

Quick facts

Suitable for Outdoor grape vines
Timing Major pruning is in early winter; training in spring and summer
Difficulty Difficult

When to prune

The main pruning time is early winter (late November or December in Britain). Training and pinching out of new shoots, as well as thinning of fruits, is carried out in spring and summer.

The Guyot system: establishing new grape vines

Set up a support system as detailed on the grapes: pruning and training page.

Plant the vines during the dormant season (late autumn until early spring) following the guidelines on the outdoor grapes page.

Space the vines 67-75cm (27-30in) apart for a single Guyot system (one main stem) and 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) apart for a double Guyot (two main stems). If you are planting more than one row, space the rows at least 1.8m (6ft) apart. There should be a 60cm (2ft) band of soil at the base of the vine, with the vine in the centre.

The Guyot system: pruning and training

After planting, cut back the main stem to two strong buds above the graft or above ground level. Then follow this advice from the first year:

Year one

In the growing season

  • Train one strong shoot vertically up a cane, pinching out or rubbing off any other shoots
  • Pinch back any side shoots from this main shoot to one leaf

In December

  • Cut the main stem back to leave two strong buds around 40cm (16in) from ground level (i.e. at the level of the lowest wire) for a single Guyot and three strong buds for a double Guyot

Year two

In the growing season

  • Train the two or three shoots growing from the selected buds up the cane
  • Pinch back any side shoots back to one leaf

In December

  • For a double Guyot, tie down one shoot to the left and one to the right along the lowest wire
  • For a single Guyot, tie down one single shoot to the left or right
  • Cut the shoots back to 60-90cm (2-3ft)
  • Cut the remaining central shoot back to two or three strong buds (two for a single Guyot, three for a double Guyot)

Year three onwards

In the growing season

  • Train two or three shoots vertically up the central cane (two for a single Guyot, three for a double Guyot)
  • Pinch back any side shoots to one leaf
  • Tuck the vertical fruit-carrying stems through the double wires
  • Cut them back to three leaves above the top wires

In December

  • Remove the horizontal arm(s) that fruited in the summer
  • Tie down one vertical shoot along the lowest wire for a single Guyot, and two shoots along the lowest wire for a double Guyot, one to the right and one to the left. Cut them back to 60-90cm (2-3ft) long
  • Cut the remaining central shoot back to two or three strong buds (two for a single Guyot and three for a double Guyot)

Problems

Grape vines can suffer from powdery mildew in hot, dry weather or when growing in crowded positions with poor air circulation.

They can also suffer from grey mould (Botrytis), downy mildew and the physiological disorder known as shanking. Birds and wasps can be problematic, and it is a good idea to hang wasp traps nearby, especially with early-season grapes.

Vines may suffer from nutrient deficiencies, particularly magnesium deficiency.

 

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