How to Grow Grapes



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Days to germination: Grapes are started from seedlings
Days to harvest: 3 years
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Regular watering
Soil: Loose and well-drained but fertile
Container: Yes, with pruning

Introduction

Grapes can be grown for eating, or for making wine. Not all varieties are the same so you should decide what you want to do with your fruit before you start to plant. Grapes for eating (usually referred to as table grapes) are much sweeter than wine grapes.

And then there are green, red or purple grapes to choose from as well. There are literally several hundred grape varieties to choose from.

Grapes are usually eaten raw, juiced or made into wine. They are not a fruit used in cooked foods very frequently. You can get vitamins A, C and several B vitamins in grapes. They also have calcium, and a mix of antioxidants as well.

Transplanting

Grape plants are not usually started by seed for the home gardener, so you will need a cutting or seedling to start your plants.

Grapes have very deep roots, so when you are digging a hole for your seedlings, you should dig down at least 3 feet in order to loosen the soil underneath the actual hole.

Most grapes are not self-fertile, so you should plan on growing 2 or 3 separate vines in order for them to produce any fruit. Choose a sunny location where you have space to put up wires to train the vines for support (see growing section for more on pruning).

Growing Instructions

Having your grapes on a trellis or other kind of support is a must with grapes. Rather than letting the vines grow up a trellis like runner beans, the traditional way to support grapes is with 2 or 3 horizontal wires. You then train or tie the vines sideways along the wires. The specific way to get your vines laid out will vary, depending on the way you are pruning your grapes.

Heavy pruning is also a necessary part of growing grapes. It may be hard to cut away large portions of your precious plants, but you want the vines to grow large grapes with good flavor. Allowing the plant to produce too many grapes will result in very small fruit with poor taste.

Pruning grapes can be a bit complicated, and if you can get a demonstration or explanation from the nursery where you get your seedlings, that may help. The easiest method is called the Kniffen System. You’ll need two 8 foot stakes, set 10 feet apart with your grape seedling in the center. String a wire between them at 3 feet high and 6 feet high. Let your plant grow during the first year and choose the strongest vine to be your future “trunk”. Tie that vine to both wires, training to grow upright.

During the second year, choose 4 good vines growing from that central trunk, and train them along the wires (2 along the lower wire, and 2 on the higher one). Prune away all other vines by the end of the year. Your framework is now in place.

In the third year, you will get start to get a fruit harvest on the 4 main vines you have left on your plant. But you will want to replace these vines by next year to get another season of fruit. So let 4 more vines grow, and at the end of the year, prune away your original 4, and tie the new ones to your support to fruit next year.

It seems complicated but once you get the rhythm of pruning, it will just become another regular garden chore. Pruning is usually done in late fall, around November.

Containers

Though they have fairly deep roots, as long as you keep a grape vine well pruned, it can be kept within the confines of a pot. You won’t likely get a huge crop, but a container grape vine can produce you some grapes if you care for it well.

You will still need more than one plant in order for proper pollination to take place, so you can have grapes. There are some “ornamental” grape vines sold as container plants because of their lush vines. When buying your seedlings, make sure you are getting a plant that will produce fruit.

Your plants will still need support, which can be a bit awkward to build around a pot. Any kind of trellis will work but your grapes will grow better if you can support them horizontally rather than vertically.

Pests and Diseases

One of the most important problems you may have to deal with is powdery mildew. You will see what looks like a white dusting on the leaves, usually the newer small leaves. Mature leaves are usually strong enough to resist the fungus. If unchecked, it can attack your fruit as well causing grapes to turn gray or to split open. Either way, the fruit is ruined.

To help prevent its spread, take care to water your grape plants at soil level and don’t soak the leaves. Mildew likes moisture, and wet leaves make it worse. You can pick off effected leaves at first to control it, but if that doesn’t stop it you will want to treat your plants with a fungicide treatment.

Grapes can also be subject to damage by grape leafhoppers. They’re fairly small insects with yellow markings, with their wings folded over their backs. They drink the juices from the plants leaves, and in large numbers they will cause your vine’s leaves to curl and wither. A typical dose of insecticide spray can usually take care of them.

Harvest and Storage

You can’t judge the ripeness of a grape from its color. They won’t be ready to pick for possibly weeks after they turn their final color, so keep track of the official maturity times for your particular varieties of grapes, and periodically taste them yourself to see where they’re at.

The fruit grows in clusters, and you should harvest the entire cluster rather than plucking each individual grape off the vine. Use a pair of clippers to cut the bunch free.

Fresh grapes store best in the refrigerator, not sealed in a container. A mesh bag or perforated plastic bag works best for grapes and they will keep for about a week this way. Grapes keep better if left on their stems until you want to use them.

Grapes are one of the few fruits that can be frozen, and that retains its shape and texture once thawed. Pull your grapes off their stems, and just freeze them whole.

6 Responses to “How to Grow Grapes”

  1. Elizabeth Sansom  Says:

    Having tried for many years (and failing dismally) to understand how to prune grapes I found your explanation very simple and straightforward to understand – it makes sense!
    Having been re-enthused I am in the position of having 2 grape vines which only produce ‘all skin and pip’ grapes and look like overgrown shrubs which have been allowed to grow like unruly children with parents who don’t know how to control them.
    Any suggestions on how to bring order out of chaos would be gratefully received.

  2. susan  Says:

    thank you for your comments on how to grow and prune my grape vine, and thank you for your site, for i have found it to be the most valued one iv seen, iv two vines growing and three that iv managed to re-root, and now thanks to your site, i now know how to train them, but the part i dont get is that if you have to cut away all new shoots of the main stem, then when do you allow the 4 new shoots to grow, to replace the 4 you already have?

  3. mary Carman  Says:

    My friends son bought a house in Seattle and in his back yard their is a grape vine ..and she wants to know how to get a starter off of it so she can grow her own..Please let me know how we do it..my neighbor also has a grape vine and I would like to know how to get a starter from that and grow it.

    sincerly Mary Carman

  4. Gerald  Says:

    For those those asking about getting starts from grape vines. In the late fall or early winter, after the vines have gone dormant, when the grape vines are pruned, I cut a section with at least three buds approximately a foot long. I make a diagonal cut just below the bud on the end closest to the root or base, and a straight across cut above the top bud, so I can tell which end to plant in the soil. I may put a half a dozen of these cuttings in a gallon pot. I like to use peat moss and Perlite as a starting medium 1:3. keep moist but not soggy, put them in a protected area like a cellar. Another way is to bury the cuttings upside down in the garden. Then in the spring dig them up and plant right side up in a pot with good garden soil. You may also have success just planting them in the garden where you wish them to grow. But I find it works best to start in pot where they get more warmth to the rooting end. Another way to start a grape vine is while the vine is in growth to take a cane/ vine which is close to the ground and bury a section in the ground, for several months to a year where it will take root. (layering) then dig the rooted start and plant it where you desire it to grow. (myfavoritegarden.gcje.net)

  5. Joy Jhugroo  Says:

    Thanks,I found this site very helpful. My dark grapes are doing well this year in Den Haag. They are not all purple yet on the clusters but the majority are. I think I’ll have to harvest anyway as the birds have found them. My vine is too big to net. Can they ripen off the vine…in the fridge? Joy

  6. Ken Shearer  Says:

    I have lots of grapes, plenty of water, feed with 16,16,16 and still the grapes are very small, I even pruned them 50% thanks Ken

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