One of the oldest cultivated crops, grapes have been grown for its fruit that we eat fresh or dried or process into jam, jelly, juice, or wine. Choose varieties that are hardy and well-suited to your area. The long-lived vines require annual maintenance and a few years to come into full production, but the investment of time and care produces results that surpass any supermarket offering.
Garden Plans For Grape
Vines bear fruit the second or third year after planting. American and table grapes are ready when they reach full cultivar size and color, in about 150-165 days. Leave raisin grapes on the vines to ripen completely before picking. The best time to pick wine grapes depends on the type of wine to be made.
Select a Planting Spot
Grapes tolerate a variety of soil types. Well-drained soil provides the biggest harvest. Highly fertile soil is not essential; grapes grow in dry sandy soil as well as fertile black loam. Choose a site that receives at least 6 hours of bright sunlight a day. Beware of nearby trees or buildings that might cast shade.
Herbicide drift is another consideration, especially in rural areas. Broadleaf herbicides, such as 2,4-D and dicamba, injure grape vines. Choose a site protected from herbicide drift by large trees and inform your neighbors of your grape planting. In urban areas, encourage neighbors to apply broadleaf herbicides in the fall when the herbicide is most effective and does the least damage to grape vines.
Support is Essential
Grape vines need some sort of support to keep them up off the ground. Almost anything works. The support can be as simple as an existing fence or post or a lovely arbor or pergola, where the grapes create a leafy canopy.
Grape Care Must-Knows
Spring is the best time to plant grapes, especially in cold zones. This gives them the most time to get established before winter sets in. Many mail-order nurseries sell them bare root. Soak bare-root plants in a bucket of water for 3 to 4 hours before planting. At planting, remove all canes except the most vigorous one. Plant vines with the lowest bud on the cane just above the soil surface. Be sure to dig a hole large enough that you can spread the root system out, and then cover the roots completely with soil. After planting, water vines regularly throughout the first year.
Late-Winter or Early-Spring Pruning
Grape vines produce fruit on one-year-old canes. Two-year and older wood is not fruitful. So annual pruning is required to produce maximum yields of high-quality fruit. If a vine is left unpruned, it will produce many more grape clusters than it can ripen. The entire plant weakens under the strain of ripening the fruit.
The best time to prune grape vines is late winter or early spring while they are leafless. There are many different ways to prune grapes. Remember, fruit is produced on the current season's growth, which originates from last season's wood. Heavy pruning provides the best fruit. Table, juice, and jelly varieties can have 40 to 60 buds per vine after pruning, but wine varieties should have only 20 to 30 buds per vine.
Excellent varieties for table grapes include 'Mars', 'Reliance', Jupiter, 'Marquis', and 'Vanessa'. To make jams and jellies, grow 'Buffalo', 'Price', 'Fredonia', 'Niagara', 'Concord', and 'Catawba'. Good wine grapes for the home garden include 'Maréchal Foch', 'Baco Noir', 'Brianna', 'Marquette', 'Seyval Blanc', and 'La Crescent'. Check with your local Extension Service to learn more about top grape varieties for your area.
More Varieties of Grape
This variety of Vitis is one of the most cold-hardy seedless grapes. It produces small red berries and is extremely productive when trellised. Zones 4-8
Vitis 'Chancellor' is most commonly grown in cool regions of the Midwest and throughout the eastern United States. Primarily used for wine-making, the purple grape is highly productive and cold hardy. Use 'Chancellor' to produce fruity red wine. It is susceptible to powdery mildew and downy mildew. Zones 5-8
This Vitis selection is a late-ripening white wine grape. It is grown for its consistent productivity and cold hardiness. Zones 5-8
Vitis 'Concord' is a seeded purple grape that is commonly used to make juice and wine. The large berries and clusters are produced reliably year after year. Zones 4-8
This type of Vitis is a large purple-blue table grape with notable cold hardiness. It ripens early and is a good choice for short seasons. Zones 4-8
Vitis 'Himrod' is a seedless grape that produces massive clusters of yellow-green fruit. A mature vine will produce 10-15 pounds of grapes. Zones 5-8
This Vitis variety produces large clusters of small seedless white grapes. The sweet grapes have a honey flavor and are best eaten fresh. Zones 4-9
Vitis 'Merlot' bears large clusters of blue-black fruits that are commonly used in wine-making. They are favored for their high sugar content. Zones 6-10
This popular variety of Vitis is a seedless white grape that is commonly used for wines, champagnes, and cooking. The exceptionally sweet grapes are also excellent for eating fresh. Zones 5-8
Vitis 'Riesling' is favored for its ability to make superior wine. The small yellow-green fruit is produced on exceptionally cold-hardy vines. Zones 4-8
This selection of Vitis is a purple-red seedless grape prized for its cold hardiness. It ripens in September, allowing for a cool, short growing season. Zones 4-8