close
Advertisement
Shop Now
Magazine

How to Grow Grapes

The Southern Hemisphere has become the source of many great wines, and the wine grape is very much at home here. Table grapes are just as successful, long-lived and productive. Grapes take up very little space. They can be trained over a pergola to provide cool summer shade, bunches of ripe fruit amidst vivid autumn-coloured foliage, and then, having lost their leaves, filtered warm sunlight in winter. Such a vine-covered pergola creates the perfect outdoor dining room, especially during the long summer months.

How to Grow Grapes
iStock

Planning the crop

Grapes require full sun and a soil that is free-draining but retains moisture, preferably a loam or even a gravelly soil. If possible, choose a site with a slight slope – a north-facing slope in areas with frost, as the leaves are frost-tender when they first emerge. The vine will need some form of support. This could be a pergola, a trellis against a sunny fence or wall, or a free-standing support of strained wires between posts, as in vineyards. Vines have an exceptionally long life, from 50 to 100 years or more, so it is crucial that the support is solidly built. Water should be readily available at the site because grapes need regular watering during their initial growth stage. Drip irrigation is ideal for vines. Overhead irrigation, especially when vines are fruiting, can quickly cause various fruit rots.

How much to grow- The coverage achieved by a vine varies according to the variety, but within five to eight years a single grapevine can cover a pergola 1.5 m wide by 4.0m long. Most vines take five to six years to come into full bearing.

Varieties- There are quarantine restrictions on the movement of grapes both between countries and also between regions to stop the spread of viruses, in particular phylloxera. Consult your local nursery for varieties best suited to your area. Some popular table grape varieties include Thompson Seedless (Sultana), Waltham Cross, Muscat Hamburg, Purple Cornichon, Ruby Seedless, Red Globe, Cardinal, Flame Seedless, Italia, Crimson Seedless and Blush Seedless. Isabella has long been a favourite in the subtropics, where grapes rarely flourish. This hybrid of the American Concord grape fruits reliably and is highly productive, with richly flavoured black grapes that are ideal for fresh eating and also make an excellent jam. Several grape varieties for wine are grown. But the best all-rounder, which is very adaptable to a wide range of districts, is Shiraz, as it is known in Australia, or Syrah, as it is known elsewhere. It is believed to have originated in Shiraz in what is now Iran.

Growing tips

It is important to prepare the ground well before planting a grapevine. Make sure the ground is free of perennial weeds. Work a small barrowload of well-rotted compost or manure into the soil and add a pelleted slow-release organic fertiliser. Grapes are planted between late autumn and early spring. If for any reason you have to delay planting bare-rooted vines, prevent the roots from drying out by covering them with damp sacking or a temporary cover of moist earth. If lifting plants from a nursery bed, lift them gently, keeping as much soil around the roots as possible, to avoid any setback or root damage. Any broken roots should be trimmed back before planting. European varieties derived from Vitis vinifera, the common grape, can be planted about 2.5 m apart. The stronger growing American varieties, such as Concord and its hybrid, Isabella, can be spaced 2.5–3 m apart. The less vigorous varieties, such as Cornichon, can be planted as close as 1.8 m. After planting, firm the soil down well around each plant and water in deeply to remove any air pockets. Keep the ground weed-free, particularly in the early years, as young vines compete poorly with heavy weed infestation. Once established, grapes do not need a lot of fertilising. An annual application of well-rotted compost or manure, ideally mixed with seaweed meal, should be adequate.

Planning the crop

Grapes require full sun and a soil that is free-draining but retains moisture, preferably a loam or even a gravelly soil. If possible, choose a site with a slight slope – a north-facing slope in areas with frost, as the leaves are frost-tender when they first emerge. The vine will need some form of support. This could be a pergola, a trellis against a sunny fence or wall, or a free-standing support of strained wires between posts, as in vineyards. Vines have an exceptionally long life, from 50 to 100 years or more, so it is crucial that the support is solidly built. Water should be readily available at the site because grapes need regular watering during their initial growth stage. Drip irrigation is ideal for vines. Overhead irrigation, especially when vines are fruiting, can quickly cause various fruit rots.

How much to grow- The coverage achieved by a vine varies according to the variety, but within five to eight years a single grapevine can cover a pergola 1.5 m wide by 4.0m long. Most vines take five to six years to come into full bearing.

Varieties- There are quarantine restrictions on the movement of grapes both between countries and also between regions to stop the spread of viruses, in particular phylloxera. Consult your local nursery for varieties best suited to your area. Some popular table grape varieties include Thompson Seedless (Sultana), Waltham Cross, Muscat Hamburg, Purple Cornichon, Ruby Seedless, Red Globe, Cardinal, Flame Seedless, Italia, Crimson Seedless and Blush Seedless. Isabella has long been a favourite in the subtropics, where grapes rarely flourish. This hybrid of the American Concord grape fruits reliably and is highly productive, with richly flavoured black grapes that are ideal for fresh eating and also make an excellent jam. Several grape varieties for wine are grown. But the best all-rounder, which is very adaptable to a wide range of districts, is Shiraz, as it is known in Australia, or Syrah, as it is known elsewhere. It is believed to have originated in Shiraz in what is now Iran.

Growing tips

It is important to prepare the ground well before planting a grapevine. Make sure the ground is free of perennial weeds. Work a small barrowload of well-rotted compost or manure into the soil and add a pelleted slow-release organic fertiliser. Grapes are planted between late autumn and early spring. If for any reason you have to delay planting bare-rooted vines, prevent the roots from drying out by covering them with damp sacking or a temporary cover of moist earth. If lifting plants from a nursery bed, lift them gently, keeping as much soil around the roots as possible, to avoid any setback or root damage. Any broken roots should be trimmed back before planting. European varieties derived from Vitis vinifera, the common grape, can be planted about 2.5 m apart. The stronger growing American varieties, such as Concord and its hybrid, Isabella, can be spaced 2.5–3 m apart. The less vigorous varieties, such as Cornichon, can be planted as close as 1.8 m. After planting, firm the soil down well around each plant and water in deeply to remove any air pockets. Keep the ground weed-free, particularly in the early years, as young vines compete poorly with heavy weed infestation. Once established, grapes do not need a lot of fertilising. An annual application of well-rotted compost or manure, ideally mixed with seaweed meal, should be adequate.

Fourth and all subsequent years of growth- During the growing season of the fourth and following years, the two buds retained on each spur will shoot. At pruning time in winter, select the strongest of the two shoots on each spur and remove the other completely. Then cut back all the remaining shoots to the basal two buds. The vine shape is now established. Repeat this practice every year for the remainder of the vine's long life.

Raising new plants- Do not raise or distribute new plants in phylloxera districts. Even in areas that are phylloxera-free, it is preferable to plant only phylloxera-certifi ed grafted vines. But if you wish to propagate plants in phylloxera-free areas, winter prunings are a good source of cutting material. Make cuttings 10–15 cm long, each with three plump buds. Make the first cut diagonally above a bud and the basal cut immediately below the bottom bud. Cuttings should be planted upright with only the upper bud above soil level. Ensure that the diagonal cut of the stem is uppermost. Firm the soil in well around the cuttings. Grape cuttings are raised either in pots or in a nursery bed, where they can be regularly tended and hand weeded. They are lifted while dormant and planted in their final position.

Pests and diseases

The main pest that attacks grapes is the grapevine moth caterpillar, which is easily controlled by using Dipel, an approved organic pesticide. Botrytis, powdery mildew and downy mildew are the diseases that cause most problems for grapevines.

Harvesting and storing

Grapes are ripe and ready for harvest when they swell and change colour, in autumn. Use secateurs to cut the bunch from the vine. As long as they are not bruised, grapes will keep in a refrigerator for up to two months.



How to Grow Artichokes

How to Grow Artichokes

Everything you need to know about growing your own artichokes..

How to Grow Blueberries

How to Grow Blueberries

In the wild, blueberries grow in acid, moorland soil. In the garden they need a moist, peaty, very acid soil and an open, sunny position.

How to Grow Broccoli

How to Grow Broccoli

Find tips for planting and growing Broccoli, and learn the health benefits of Broccoli

How to Grow Cucumbers

How to Grow Cucumbers

Cucumbers have been cultivated for about 3000 years, with many different varieties being developed from four closely related species to suit different tastes and uses. The fruit ranges from the tiny pickling cornichon of France and the common green cucumber to the related African horned cucumber, or kiwano, and the sweet Armenian cucumber.

How to Grow Currants

How to Grow Currants

Blackcurrants are hardy shrubs, easy to grow and long-lived in cool climate districts. The dark, acid berries are richer in vitamin C than almost any other garden fruit. Redcurrants and white currants are close relatives, although they have a different growth habit. They, too, are long-lived in the garden and highly productive.

Advertisement