Few people get to experience the joy of eating fresh grapes right off of the vine. They are so sweet, juicy, and delicious that you won’t be able to stop. Learn how to grow grapes so you can have this joyful experience.
Varieties of Grapes to Grow
**American and French hybrid bunch grapes can be grown in most areas as long as you choose varieties adapted to your area.
**For growing all types of grapes, plant grapes in the spring as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. The plants need time to become established before the stresses of summer afflict them.
Where to Grow Grapes
**Because grapes like hot weather, they are some of the latest plants to leaf out in spring. In cooler climates (zones 7a or colder), plant them where they will warm up quickly, such as the south side of a building.
**Well-drained soil is essential, but grapes do not do well in extremely fertile soils. Plants grown in fertile soils produce lots of leaves and low-quality grapes. Poor soils tend to produce moderate crops of grapes with excellent flavor.
**Hillsides are particularly good sites for grapes because they promote air drainage, which reduces the chance of late-season frosts and dries foliage more rapidly, which lessens problems with diseases.
How to Plant Grapes for Happy Plants
**Prepare the soil the year before planting by killing the weeds and tilling the soil. Grapes do not compete well with weeds, so starting clean is a good idea.
**Before planting, decide on the kind of support system you want and possibly get it set up. See the following articles for some good ideas:
**Space the plants about 10 feet apart along the support system you chose.
**Do not fertilize the plants for a month after planting unless they are low in vigor/growth. Grapes should have a huge amount of growth each year, but overly vigorous plants may suffer winter damage.
How to Grow Grapes and Keep them Healthy
**Immediately after planting, prune the plants to a single stem with 2 buds. After new growth starts in spring, select the more vigorous cane, tie it to a stake, and remove the other cane. Allow the single cane to grow until it reaches the top wire of the trellis. It will form the permanent trunk of the grapevine. If side growth occurs near the lower wire, train 1 shoot along the wire in each direction, and remove all nearby sprouts. If you’re struggling to find a way to get horizontal wires like this set up in your garden you could also try what I do with cattle panel trellises. When the main cane reaches the top wire, pinch out the growing tip to induce branching. Train the resulting 2 sprouts along the wire in each direction.
**Remove any flowers or fruit clusters that develop anywhere in the second year. This allows energy to be directed toward good root establishment.
**In the third year spring season, prune back half of the laterals so that they will give you fruit next year. If you’re just starting to learn how to grow grapes then just remember to have fun with it. It’s okay if you don’t prune perfectly or even if you forget for a year, grapes don’t mind!
**Once vines are into production, prune them every spring. Select 4 laterals and prune them so that only 6-10 buds remain, and these arms will produce fruit this year. Then select 4 smaller laterals and cut them back to only 2 buds each, these are renewal spurs for the laterals for the following year. Proper pruning removes about 90% of the wood on a vine.
**Prune grapes in early spring/late winter, which is during February if you live in zone 7 like me. Early spring pruning will result in sap “bleeding” from the pruning wounds. Though you might want to freak out about this, the “bleeding” does not harm the plant and will stop after a week or so. Proper pruning reduces the number of problems that grapes may have with insects and diseases.
**For young vines, apply ¼ cup 10-10-10 fertilizer (like this one) around each plant. Repeat at 6-week intervals until mid-July.
**On 2 year old vines, double the first year rates and use the same interval. Bearing vines will need 2 ½ pounds of fertilizer per plant applied in March.
**Magnesium deficiency, a yellowing between the leaf veins on older leaves, may become noticeable in midsummer. For young plants, apply 2 ounces of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts like this one) around each vine, watering it afterward. Apply 4-8 ounces per mature, bearing vine. 2-3 years may be required to bring the magnesium levels up for the best plant performance.
**Insects such as the Japanese beetles and aphids may attack grapes as well as diseases such as black rot and Pierce’s disease. Learning how to grow grapes can be a bit different in each part of the world so careful understanding of local techniques with these pest/disease problems will be beneficial.
Harvesting the Grapes You’ve Grown
**Grapes mature in late summer to early fall. Full color is not the only indicator of maturity. At maturity, the seeds and the cluster stems turn brown and the berries attain maximum sweetness. Harvest and enjoy!
Varieties I want to try:
White Aurora: good for wine and eating fresh
Red Delaware: small but sweet, makes good red wine
Black Baco Noir: good for clay soils and for making wine
Question of the Day:
Which varieties have you grown or want to grow? I would love some suggestions!