Growing grapes is one of the most delightful and rewarding plants to grow in today’s orchards. With endless recipe possibilities, you can be eating grapes all year long.
When Planting Edibles, Always Start with a Plan:
Step 1: Comprise a wish list of plants.
Step 2: Experiment – Try something new!
Step 3: Know your land and location – Sunlight, space, and soil conditions.
Step 4: Growing methods – Raised beds, traditional rows, or containers?
Step 5: Choose your fruit – Start with trees, then berries and vegetables.
There is nothing more scrumptious than eating fruit harvested from your own crop, and your success begins with the planting site and method you use.
When you purchase your plants from Herbein’s Garden Center, they should already be acclimated to our temperatures. If, however, you mail-order a plant, be sure to place them in a sheltered, shady area and gradually increase its time outdoors by 1-2 hours a day. After about 7 days, your plants should be ready to transplant into the ground.
BEFORE planting, consider these 3 things when planning your home orchard:
- Sun and soil
- Space for future plants
Most garden variety grapes are self-pollinating and will fruit without another variety’s pollen. However, if you plant a variety of grapes, you will see a larger crop, as is the nature of cross-pollination.
Plant in full sun (at least 6-8 hours) and well-draining fertile soil. Light is critical to fruit production and fruit quality and helps minimize fungal problems.
Well-draining soil will keep your grape vine’s root system healthy and happy. If necessary, add soil amendments to heavy or fast-draining soils. Add coco fiber potting medium or 1/3 peat to the soil at planting time.
Check your soils pH before you dig. You can purchase a Penn State Soil Test Kit from us or a meter for a quick result. Grapes need a soil pH between 5.5 – 6.5. Use Espoma Organic Garden Lime if the soil’s pH is too low, or Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier if the soil’s pH is too high. Grape vines can grow in many different types of soil, but it must have good drainage.
Grapes are grown in rows trained to a trellis and need ample space to grow. Table and wine grapes should be planted 6-8’ apart. Muscadine grapes should be planted at 12-15’ apart.
Dig the hole deep and wide enough to accommodate its current root system and having plenty of room for the roots to spread out. Add Espoma Organic Bio-tone Starter Plant Food to the soil you dug out and will use to backfill over the grape vine’s root system.
- Pull the plant from its pot and gently loosen the roots. Plant slightly deeper than the soil line with the roots down and spread out. Now backfill.
- Water thoroughly with a deep, slow soaking. If the soil settles, add more soil until it is ground level.
- Prune heavily after planting…read more under
- Train to stake during the first summer, pinching back all side shoots to two leaves each.
- Shallow cultivation during the early growing months and summer months will do wonders for your grapevines.
Fertilizer we recommend for use with grape vines:
Preparing Your Soil
- Roots will grow faster if they are spread out. Dig your hole deep and wide enough so the root system has enough room to expand. If the soil needs loosened up, mix dehydrated cow manure, peat or compost (up to 1/3 concentration) into the pile of soil you dig from the hole. Use this to backfill and cover the plant’s root system.
Adding organic matter will improve just about any type of soil condition by helping retain moisture and nutrients and break apart clay soils so that water can penetrate through and roots can spread.
Pests & Disease Control
Every plant has the potential for insect and disease damage. Big factors like location and weather will play a role in which issues your plants will encounter. Practicing proper maintenance on your fruit & berry plants such as watering, pruning, spraying, weeding, and cleanup will help keep most issues at bay.
Below is a list of pests that have been known to make an appearance on grape vines.
Branch & Twig Borer Grape Phylloxera
Grape Berry Moth Grape Thrips
Grape Bud Beetle Grape Vinegar Fly
Grape Cutworms Japanese Beetle
Grape Flea Beetle Omnivorus Leafroller
Grape Leadcable Borer Orange Tortrix
Grape Leafhoppers Scale
Grape Leafroller Western Grape Skeletonizer
Grape Mealybugs Webspinning Spider Mites
Below is a list of diseases known to infect grape vines.
Anthracnose Downy Mildew
Armillaria Root Rot Eutypa Dieback
Black Measles Pierces’s Disease
Black Rot Powdery Mildew
Botrytis Bunch Rot Phomopsis Cane & Leaf Spot
Grab our brochure “Pest & Disease Control for Edibles” for more in-depth info.
Pruning Grape Vines
Pruning is essential for proper development of fruit growth.
- First Pruning & Second Year Growth
To ensure good fruit production, pruning the past season’s growth should be done each winter when the leaves have fallen off the vines and the plants are dormant (January & February.) After the lateral shoots have been established as cordons, canes extending from them should be pruned back to spurs.
- Second Pruning & Third Year Growth
In the winter after the second growing season, cane grown from the previous year’s buds should be pruned to three buds per spur.
In late winter, from the third year on, your grapevines should be pruned back severely. On each of the four arms, choose a good pencil-size stem as the fruiting cane, trimming it back to keep about 8-10 buds. Near the base of these canes, leave a stubby stem with two buds to form next year’s fruiting canes. Prune all the others away. This may sound severe, but it really works well!
At the beginning of the second year, begin training the vine to a permanent support and making sure the trellis is sturdy and strong enough to support many heavy loaded-down vines. Select the best side canes to form the double “T” shape. Your grapes will produce on new wood, so keep old wood to a bare minimum.
Spraying Grape Vines
Spraying is important to the survival of your grape vines.
General Preventative Maintenance:
- Spray with Bonide® Fruit Tree Spray every 14 days. Do not use more than 2 applications a year and do not spray for at least a week or two before harvesting. Be sure to follow product directions.
When to spray:
- Dormant Season (late winter/early spring, before leaves emerge) – Bonide® All Seasons® Dormant Oil Spray
- Growing Season – During New Growth – Bonide® Copper Fungicide
- Growing Season – Before Bloom – Bonide® Captan Fruit & Ornamental
Disease & Pest Controls:
Bonide® Insecticidal Soap
Bonide® Captain Jack’s™ Deadbug Brew
Bonide® Fruit Tree Spray
Bonide® Thuricide BT
GardenTech® Sevin Bug Killer
Bonide® Citrus, Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray
Bayer Advanced™ Complete Insect Killer
Serenade® Garden Disease Control
Unless you typically need to water your plants for “normal” plant growth, you probably won’t need to water after the first growing season. However, don’t forget to water directly after planting at your site.
When to Harvest
Harvesting grapes is such a rewarding time in the garden. Get ready to enjoy your delicious, juicy fruit!
- You will be able to start harvesting grapes in your third season. Harvest when conditions are dry as grapes do not keep well when wet.
- Color change and a less firm touch are ways to determine when grapes are ready, but there is nothing better (or easier) than tasting them right off the vine!
- Keep grapes out of direct sunlight and do not wash until ready to eat. Store in the refrigerator in a Ziplock bag.