Do you want to grow grapes? Here are some tips to get you started:

 Photograph © Pat Bruno/Positive Images
From the cover of Landscaping with Fruit

Do you want to grow grapes? Here are some tips to get you started:

Soil Needs

Grapevines grow in many soil types. Well-drained, deep, fertile loams are excellent, yet grapes thrive on soils containing clay, slate, gravel, shale, and sand. Gravelly soils generally drain well, and they absorb and reflect the sun’s warmth, providing heat for the vines.

  • Good soil drainage — this is crucial; grapes do not like wet feet
  • Soil pH appropriate to the variety
  • Soil depth of at least 30 inches, because of the deep-rooting habits of grapes
  • Proper soil preparation: loosen, break up, and mix soil layers well below ordinary cultivation depth

The Best Fertilizer for Grapes

The best fertilizer for grapes is well-rotted manure, or compost made with large amounts of straw-y manure applied as a mulch during the growing season. In fall apply either manure compost or straight, well-rotted manure at the rate of 15 to 20 pounds per 100 square feet. In most cases no other fertilization is required. Vineyards given this treatment consistently yield up to 30 percent more fruit than those fertilized with commercial preparations.

Planting and Supporting Grapevines

In northern areas grapes should be planted as early in the spring as the soil can be worked. Farther south the vines can be planted in the autumn. The plants must get established before the long hot days of summer begin.

Order your grape stock from a nursery as close to you as possible; if you can, pick out and pick up the plants yourself. The best stock is strong, sturdy, one-year-old plants with large, fibrous root systems; two-year-old plants are more expensive and will not bear any sooner. Dig a good hole in worked-up soil, large enough to spread out the vine’s roots comfortably. Pack the soil firmly around the roots, leaving no air spaces that could increase the chances of disease. Plant the vines at the same depth they grew in the nursery, then prune them back to a single stem two or three buds tall. If it is early spring and the soil is moist, you need not water. Later in the spring you may want to water the stock well after planting. You will need a trellis.

After planting, prune back the vines to a single stem two or three buds tall.
Illustration © Elayne Sears (from page 101 of The Backyard Homestead)

Space most hybrid cultivars 8 to 10 feet apart in the row, with the rows 10 to 11 feet from each other. Less vigorous vines can be closer together — 7 to 8 feet apart in the row. If your grape selection is not self-pollinating, it will need a partner nearby to produce well.

Pruning Grapes

Pruning is a very important part of grape culture and one that must not be neglected. Because of the grape’s tendency to grow vigorously, a lot of wood must be cut away each year.

Excerpt from The Backyard Homestead © 2009 Storey Publishing, LLC

Storey’s books have more in-depth information about pruning grape vines, grape varieties, planning and planting a vineyard, and more.

The Backyard Homestead
From Vines to Wines
Landscaping with Fruit
Great Grapes

Carleen Madigan

Before becoming an editor at Storey Publishing, Carleen Madigan was managing editor of Horticulture magazine and lived on an organic farm outside Boston, Massachusetts, where… See Bio

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The Backyard Homestead

by Carleen Madigan

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