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Trimming Wild Grapevines

I have wild grapes that grow around my bridal bushes. They also try to grow up into my lilacs. Wild grapevines grow rapidly, and are a pain to deal with. Last year, I spent a couple hours cutting them out.

Grapevines are a major problem in timberland because they twist and bend around trees, breaking tops and limbs. They also spread out and block sunlight from reaching the trees. Wild grapevines grow anywhere, but their favorite species to wind around is the valuable walnut tree.

Dan Ernst is the assistant state forester with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and says grapevines are controlled by cutting them off near the ground.

"Cut them off a foot or two above ground," Ernst says. "And if it's plenty shady, just cutting them off will take care of the vines, there's no reason to pull the vines out of the trees. If there's a fair amount of sunlight in the area the vine stumps will just go ahead and re-sprout, and you'll have grapevines again. In those kinds of situations you want to apply a chemical brush killer to kill the root system of the grape to prevent it from re-sprouting."

Be vigilant

If the vines get a stronghold, they'll grow like weeds both up and out. The stems range in size from your little finger to 6 inches in diameter. So it may take several tools to slice through them.

"Typically when the vines are cut, you will use either a pair of loppers and cut them off, or a chainsaw, or a hand saw, and cut those off," Ernst says. "But the vine, once it's cut, the leaves will shrivel up. There won't be near the weight up in the trees, there won't be leaves any longer up there on the grapevine to block the sunlight. There's really not much need at all to pull them out of the trees."

You may need to embark on a vine-destroying mission more than once. The seed can remain viable in the soil for at least 15 years and loves to sprout up with young trees.

On the other hand, having some around isn't always a bad thing. The plant produces food, cover, and nesting material for many species of wildlife.

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