If you want to add some depth to your backyard garden, grapes are a delightful way to go. This fruit will happily grow upwards on a trellis and is perfect if you have extra vertical space. Find out when to plant grapes for the best and tastiest results.
When to plant grapes: The first year of growing grapes won’t produce a lot of fruit as the emphasis is on establishing the plant and training the vines. However, in the second year, you will start to see more and more of this delicious fruit. Plant your vines in mid-spring, around April, as long as the threat of a hard frost is over. Once they are established, grapes will produce their fruit in mid to late summer, depending on the variety. Grapes need slightly acidic soil that drains well. One important aspect of growing grapes is that you need to prune them every year, in the winter when they are dormant. It can take some practice but you want to leave enough young growth to produce the grapes but not too much as it will overwhelm the plant. While you can plant wine varieties of grapes, most backyard gardeners prefer table grapes. These are varieties that you can eat fresh from the vine or cook or preserve with.
Planting Grapes in Different Climates
While grapes can technically survive in tropical climates, the plant will produce more leaves than it will fruit. Grapes need a cold, dormant period, which a tropical climate can’t provide.
A dry climate is usually not good enough for grapes. They need more moisture and more warmth during the summer nights.
Some varieties of grapes can thrive in a temperate climate. Because the winters are not as cold, you want to take this into account when deciding which varieties to plant.
Most grape varieties thrive in a continental climate. The summers are nice and hot, there is plenty of suns, and the cold winters are great for the natural cycle of grapes.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough sun, warmth, or nutrients in a polar climate to sustain grapes.
Choosing Grape Seeds
Before you plant your grapes, you will need to decide on a variety. There are two main types of grapes including table grapes and wine grapes.
For the most part, if you want to create wine from grapes, you will need a lot of them. Therefore, most backyard gardeners stick to table grapes, which are varieties you can eat.
- Cardinal Grapes – ripen very early and are great for eating fresh off the vine
- Concord Grapes – common American variety that has seeds and is great for making jelly
- Niagara Grapes – seedless variety that is green in color and perfect for eating or making juice or jam
- Bluebell Grapes – ripen early, are great for colder regions, and can be eaten fresh
- Interlaken Grapes – prefer cool regions, has a green or yellow color, and a lovely fruity flavor
- Early Muscat Grapes – a European variety that has seeded, green fruit
- Thompson Seedless Grapes – small in size and with an amber coloring, it is seedless and great for eating fresh or drying for raisins
How to Plant Grape Seeds
For best results, plant your grapevines in the early spring. This should be after the last hard freeze is over but you don’t have to wait until the last frost date.
For most regions, April or early May is ideal for planting your grapes. Just make sure the ground is able to be worked in.
Grapes thrive on sunshine. Make sure the place you are planting your grapes has access to full sun, or at least sun most of the day.
Also, think about where your grapes will be growing. Even if you have full sun where you plant the vine, remember that this vine will grow upwards and across a trellis, so ensure those areas are also in full sun.
Prepare the roots
When you purchase grapes, you may be surprised that the root structure is bare. It is still alive; it just doesn’t have a lot of soil around the roots.
Place the root structure in a bucket of water and soak for two or three hours. This will signal to the plant that it is time to come out of its dormancy period.
Prepare the soil
Grapes like soil that is neutral or slightly acidic. You can always purchase a soil testing kit to determine if you need to add anything to your soil.
Dig a hole for your grapevine that is just deeper than the root structure. Gently spread the roots out a bit before filling the hole back in.
Most grape varieties are self-fertilizing so you don’t need to worry about purchasing different varieties. However, if you simply love grapes, you can definitely plant a few vines.
If you have multiple plants, space them out between 6 to 10 feet. This will give the vines plenty of space to grow so they won’t be in competition with other plants.
How to Water Grapes
After you plant your grapes, you will need to give them plenty of water. Aim to keep the soil moist but well-drained in the first year in order to help the roots become established.
If you have grape varieties that are native to your area, you don’t need to worry as much about water. They are pretty hardy and can survive in harsher conditions.
If you have a very hot summer then be sure to give your grapes more water to compensate for a lack of rainfall.
How to Grow Grapes
Your grape plant will want to climb right away, so as soon as you plant it, provide a support mechanism for it. This should be a trellis structure so the small tendrils of the vine can easily wrap around thinner substances.
While grapes will eventually grow along fences, these are usually too slick for the small tendrils. Help the plant out so that while it is growing it has something to hold onto before it can reach the top of the fence.
One nice part of growing grapes is that you don’t have to worry about fertilizer in the first year. As long as you start out with nutritious soil, your grapes will be fine at first.
After that first year, add fertilizer in the spring. Add compost to the soil around the vine but be careful not to disrupt the roots.
In order to keep the soil moist but not soggy, you can add a layer of bark mulch around the roots. This will absorb water and then slowly release it into the ground.
Add a fresh layer of mulch to the soil every year as it will break down during the summer.
One incredibly important part of growing grapes is pruning them. There’s a delicate balance as too little pruning causes few grapes, but so does too much pruning.
Every year, your grapevine will continue to grow and will introduce new shoots. If you don’t prune, the vine will have too many canes, which won’t produce any fruit.
Alternatively, if you cut back your grapevines every year, new foliage will appear but it will be too new and won’t have many grapes on it.
The best time to prune your grapes is when the plant is dormant, in February or March. The goal is to continuously cut back canes that are one year old so that you have well-spaced canes that can produce new fruit.
Pests and diseases
Like any plant, grapes are susceptible to some pests and diseases. Aphids are the most common and you might not see these tiny green bugs at first.
Always check the undersides of grape leaves for any creepy crawlies. If you see aphids, use a hose to wash them off and then spray an organic mix to stop them from coming back.
Powdery mildew is also a common disease. If you see your grape leaves have a white or silver sheen to them, it may be a sign of disease.
Trim some of the leaves to ensure there is ample airflow. Get rid of any diseased leaves and keep an eye out to make sure nothing has spread.
How long do grapes take to grow?
If you plant your grapes in the spring, you will have grapes to eat in the summer. These plants will also continue to grow back year after year, so you will have plenty of delicious summers to look forward to.
During the first year of planting, you shouldn’t expect too many grapes. This is because the focus should be on creating a strong root system for future growth.
Grapes are a great addition to any garden. They grow up and out and make for a bold statement across any fence or trellis. Plant your grapes in the spring and, while you shouldn’t expect too much fruit in the first year, in subsequent years the grapes will be ready to eat in mid to late summer.