Learning how to grow grapes will add much value to your garden. A home vineyard is a sure way to have fresh fruit year after year right within your own backyard.
Having an yearly vegetable plot is fulfilling on many different levels, but can be exhausting. Relying only on annuals as the edibles that make up a home garden is not the most efficient way to produce food at home. Adding perennials like strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and grapes is an excellent way to work smarter, not harder. Still perennials require some maintenance, and grapes are no exception.
Let’s explore how to grow the best grapes possible for your home vineyard.
Decide Why You Want to Learn How to Grow Grapes
This really is the first step because it allows you to know what type of grape to buy and where they should be located on the property. Are you hoping to start a new winemaking hobby? Or just have table grapes to snack on during the summer? Are you wanting to plant an abundance and press them into juice or make jam. Or just a few to have fresh? Knowing your “why” will allow you to start and the best possible foot.
Decide where you will plant the grapes
Once you’ve decided on why you want to grow grapes, choosing a location is the next step. Choosing where you are going to plant your grapes should be done even before heading to your local nursery. I have had a bad habit in the past of getting excited at the nursery and buying more than planned (guilty!) Those plants tend to not do as well as one’s that I’ve planned for.
Get the site ready
Grape vines should be located in sites with well-drained sandy soil that receive full sun. Work at least 2″ of organic soil conditioner into the top 10″ of the planting site. Grape vines require a trellis or support system, but at first they won’t need one. As a general rule, each grapevine needs about 4 feet to 5 feet of trellis space. It’s a good idea to position the trellis before planting the grape vines.
Buy the grape vines
There are many varieties of grapes. Table grapes are one’s grown to eat fresh from the vine, while wine grapes are better used to make wine. Choose plants based on what zone you are in as well what you are planning to do with the grapes. Popular varieties of table grapes include Concord, Red Flame, and (my favorite!) Thompson Seedless. Popular varieties of wine grapes include zinfandel and chardonnay.
Plant the grapes!
Once home from the nursery, soak the vines in a bucket of water to keep the roots hydrated. Dig a planting hole. If planting multiple vines, space the holes at least 5 feet to 8 feet apart. Put the grape vine in the hole and fan out its roots. The point on the stem where the roots flare out should be about 1inch below the soil line. Fill around the roots, with soil until the hole is full. Add mulch around the vines.
Prune the vines
Proper pruning techniques can make or break the success of a grape vine i cannot stress this enough! After planting, prune the vine back to just one vigorous cane. The following spring, prune all but the most vigorous canes. Carefully tie the remaining canes to the trellis with twine. In future years, continue to keep only the most vigorous canes while pruning older, weaker ones.
Set up irrigation to grow grapes
Depending on what zone you are in grape vines will need varying amounts of hydration. If you are in a rainy climate, or using a dry farming technique, you might skip this step. Freshly planted grape vines need a good amount of water while they are getting established. Drip irrigation is the best method since it prevents water from getting on the leaves, which can cause disease. For older vines, too little water is better than too much water.
Thin the fruit to grow grapes in the future
I know it’s hard to do but, during the first year, thin all the flower clusters that appear on the vines. This focuses the plant’s energy on producing healthy leaves, branches and roots. In following years, thin flower clusters to just one or two per shoot. This provides more room for the remaining clusters to grow to full size. By the third year you should a decent crop of grapes to harvest.
Harvest the grapes
The best way to tell when table grapes are ready for harvest is by tasting them! My kids are usually the one’s to alert me on whether the grapes are ready! Grapes don’t ripen after picking, so make sure they’re fully ripe before harvesting them. For wine grapes, the use of a refractometer to test the fruit’s sugar content may be necessary. The grapes should have between 18 and 22 percent sugar. Be sure to use clean, sharp shears when harvesting the grapes so you do not damage the vine by pulling.
How to Grow Grapes FAQ
What vegetables can I plant next to grapes?
Grapes do well planted next to:
How Long Until my grapevine produces grapes?
Grapes can produce by their second year, but heavier harvests usually begin after year three.
When and do I Prune my Grapes?
Prune grapevines when the vine is dormant. This is usually during the cold months of January through March.
When Will My Grapes be ripe?
Grapes will ripen during the late summer, depending on the variety.