For over 6,000 years, gardeners have been growing grapes. Don’t let the idea of cultivating grapes scare you; it is easier than you might think. And, it is a good idea to stop buying grapes from the supermarket as they are one of the most heavily sprayed commercial crops. Do you even know what you are eating with your grapes?
Here are some really good reasons to consider adding grapes to your home garden and some tips to get you started.
There is a grapevine for almost any climate
No matter where you live, there is a grapevine that you can grow. As long as you have some sunshine, good air circulation, well-drained soil, and a sturdy structure like an arbor, fence or post and wire set-up, you can grow grapes.
Grapevines last a very long time
When planted in the right spot and well cared for, grapevines can last for decades. While some types take a little longer than others to produce, once they get going, grapes will reward you with bushels and bushels of fruit each year. It is not uncommon for fifty-year-old vines to sill be producing a ton of grapes, especially in warmer climates.
Less is more
You might have the notion that you need a ton of vines to have an abundant supply of grapes. This is actually not true all. Even one healthy plant will provide up to twenty pounds of grape per season. So, a few healthy vines are more than enough to provide a family with plenty of grapes.
They are really easy to grow
Grapes don’t need a whole lot of extra care apart from regular annual pruning. This helps limit the growth of the vine and encourages fruiting. Pruning helps vines conform to the trellis that it is growing on. If you prune heavily in the late winter months, it encourages healthy and vigorous growth and fruit-bearing vines. If you happen to inherit some vines that have not been tended for some time, don’t be concerned. Cutting older, unpruned vines back severely will help them start to produce again.
They add interest and shade to the landscape
If you have ever stood under a canopy of well-trained grapes, you know just how much shade it offers. Besides this, an arbor adorned with vines is a showstopper for sure, a perfect focal point for your landscape. Grapevines add interest to any garden during each season. In the winter, the vines add rustic beauty, while bright, spearmint-green foliage appears in the spring followed by large, well-defined leaves in summer and a rainbow of red, gold, and amber in the fall. Even if they never produced any fruit, grapevines are a beautiful accent plant.
Beneficial insects love grapevines
Beneficial insects that dine on landscape pests such as lacewings and ladybugs won’t harm good bugs or plants but will love hanging out amongst grapevines. To encourage even more beneficial insects, plant plenty of yarrow, catmint, and purple coneflower near your grapevines.
Grapes are really good for you
One great reason to grow grapes is that they are so good for you. Loaded with vitamins A, C, B6, and folate, grapes also contain essential vitamins like calcium, potassium, and iron.
Tips for growing the best grapes ever
- Choose your grapes – Do some research on the best grapes for your region. The best grapes are the ones that will grow well in your area and climate zone. It would be best if you also considered what you will be using the grapes for. There are grapes that are well suited to jelly and jam making, and others that are better suited for making wine.
- Choose your location – Selecting the best location for your grapes is the first and most important step. Grapes prefer well-drained soils like clay loan that helps to keep excess moisture away from roots. A slight slope will provide airflow, and an East-to-south exposure is best.
Planting and caring for grapes
At least one year before you intend to plant grapes, it is a good idea to begin preparing the area. Take the time to test your soil, add any amendments, kill weeds, and mark off where you will plant.
- Purchase bare-rooted plants for spring planting.
- Trim roots 6-12 inches and soak vines in water before planting.
- Dig a hole that is a few inches deeper than the longest root. Point the roots down and spread them out in the hole.
- Tie the shoots loosely to a stake to make sure that the trunk is straight and strong.
- Water new vines well and keep weeds cleared out.
- Two weeks after planting, apply 2 ounces of 33-0-0 fertilizer to each plant at least one foot from the vine.
- Build a trellis system in the summer or fall once plants have had a chance to grow some.
Prune and protect grapes
During the dormant period – December through March, prune back to one or two canes and leave only two to three nodes on each one. After shoot growth, remove all but two of the strongest shoots. Be sure to remove all flower clusters during the first year. Protect your vines from animals such as deer and rabbits who like to munch on the tender shoots.
Happy grape growing!