Grape Essentials

by National Gardening Association Editors

Planning

  • Choose a variety that is recommended for your climate. Grapes require a long, frost-free growing season.
  • Grapes start to bear 2 years after 1-year-old vines are planted. Established vines will yield up to 15 pounds of grapes per year, 30 to 40 pounds from a muscadine.
  • Plant grapes in the spring.

Preparation

  • Select a site with deep, well-drained, loose soil in full sun.
  • Set up a trellis system before planting.

Planting

  • Space vines 6 to 10 feet apart (16 feet for muscadines).
  • For each vine, dig a planting hole 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide. Fill with 4 inches of topsoil. Trim off broken roots and set the vine into the hole slightly deeper than it grew in the nursery.
  • Cover the roots with 6 inches of soil and tamp down. Fill with the remaining soil, but don't tamp this down.

Care

  • Prune the top back to two or three buds at planting time and follow the first-year training steps.
  • Prune annually when the vines are dormant according to the training system you select.
  • Do not fertilize unless the soil is very poor or the plants show poor foliage color or signs of nutrient deficiencies.
  • Cultivate shallowly around the base of plants to control weeds.
  • Drape netting over vines to prevent birds from destroying your harvest.
  • See our article Fruit Pests and Diseases for controls of common grape pests such as aphid, scale, anthracnose, and black rot.

Harvesting

  • Grapes will only ripen on the vine. As they ripen, the sugar content rises to about 20 percent.
  • Harvest table grapes when the flavor is right; harvest wine grapes when they reach the appropriate sugar content.


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