Growing Backyard Grapes

Tips For Successful Backyard Grape Growing

Growing grapes in the backyard or garden can be a rewarding experience. It can also be quite a failure if not done properly. Grapevines are perennial plants and will grow for years to come, and can provide as much beauty as growing flowers. There are a few things to consider before you just jump in and start planting your grapevines. Otherwise, mistakes made at planting will haunt you in the future.

Biggest mistake when growing grapes in your backyard.

Grapes need lots of sunshine. One of the biggest mistakes that the home gardener makes when growing grapes in their backyard is to plant them in the shade under a tree or where they get shaded by houses most of the day. If you watch wild grapevines grow, you will notice they make all efforts to climb trees and shrubs to get into the daylight. Without proper sunlight, proper ripeness cannot be obtained. Be sure the spot you choose has good sun most of the day.

Second mistake when growing grapes in your backyard...

A second mistake that many home gardeners make is to not take into account the grape variety's growth habit and vigor. These two factors come into play when planting the grapevine and deciding on how to trellis the vine.

Vigorous varieties need lots of space. You can find out how vigorous a variety is by consulting your local nursery where you bought your vines. Vigorous varieties need eight feet between vines when planting. Less vigorous varieties can be planted closer at six feet between vines. Very low vigor vines can be planted as close as four feet.

Trellis type when growing grapes in your backyard.

Growth habit determines the trellis type and how the grapevine will be trained and pruned. Grape varieties with a large portion of their ancestry coming from wild American species tend to droop. These are like the wild vines that grow to the top of small trees and shrubs then cascade downward during the summer. The gardener will find that it is best to mimic this natural growth.

Vines of this type will be trained to a high wire about six feet off the ground. The grapevines are pruned to two to four long canes each year. As the shoots grow each year from the canes left at pruning time, they will grow outward from each side and soon start drooping towards the ground, forming a curtain of leaves by the end of the growing season.

Many varieties have the European grape, V.vinifera, in their ancestry. The European grape varieties tend to have a more upright growth. These grape varieties need a more extensive trellis system. At least four wires are needed to contain them. The first wire is approximately three feet off the ground with the two additional wires at eight inch intervals above the bottom wire. The vines are trained to a trunk that extends to the bottom wire.

How to "hedge" your grapes when growing them in the backyard.

Two to four canes are pruned and tied to the bottom wire on each side of the trunk. As the shoots grow during the spring and summer they are tied straight up to the wires above. Once the shoots have reached approximately 16 inches above the top wire, they are cut off at the tips. This "hedging" prevents further growth and shading of the vine below.

Grapes need a good water supply when they are actively growing in the spring and summer. They should be watered at least once a week in areas of little rain. More often under droughty conditions. This watering shoud be continued until the berries begin to turn color. After coloring, watering is not needed and will in fact slow the ripening process. Once the leaves have fallen in the fall, one last large watering should be undertaken before the ground freezes to get the vines through the winter.

Don't neglect pruning grapes when growing them in your backyard

Perhaps the biggest mistake I see with home gardeners growing grapes in their backyard is neglecting pruning the vines each year. This is a must! Without pruning the grapevine becomes an overgrown tangled mess. The grapevines overbear and the berries don't ripen properly. Disease sets in as the vine is over shaded and doesn't recieve drying winds. The vines will weaken over time and eventually die before their time.

Pruning removes 90-95% of the previous year's growth. It keeps the vines in balance and aids in controlling the crop and ripening the fruit. Pruning the grapevine is an art, not a science. Information on grapevine pruning can be obtained through your local Ag Extension agent. They have agricultural bulletins that detail the pruning process. You can also find comments at: http://www.ristcanyonvineyards.com/grapevine_pruning_and_training.html

Growing grapevines can be a nice hobby that will provide you and your family with fresh fruit or grapes to make wine with. Table grape varieties and wine varieties are distinct. Make sure you are planting the proper varieties for the wanted purpose. Home gardeners should also make sure that the varieties they are planting are adapted to their local climate. Some varieties cannot take cold winters, while others can tolerate freezing temperatures down to -25-30F.

Varieties that have American grape species in their ancestry can tolerate colder winters. Make sure you consult with your nurseryman to fit the variety you are planting to your conditions. The variety you choose must also be able to ripen in your climate. I see too many home gardeners planting varieties that take up to 170 days or more to ripen in areas that have only 150 days or less in their growing seasons.

If you are thinking of growing grapevines in your backyard or garden, be sure to consider the above factors before you start planting.

Choose your grape varieties based upon what you plan to use them for, how they are adapted to the local growing conditions, and plan the trellis according to the variety's growth habit. I wish you all the luck in your endeavor.

About The Author

Jim Bruce has been growing grapes since the mid-seventies under a range of growing conditions. His Rist Canyon Vineyards is a research project to aid others in growing grapes. More information can be found at http://www.ristcanyonvineyards.com.

ristvin_jrb@yahoo.com



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"I LOST A VINE LAST YEAR NOW I KNOW WHERE I WENT WRONG THANKS "

BOB FROM LOWESTOFT

"I have now grown grapes for two seasons ans each time produced 6 very good bottles of a chardennay type wine,no additives,as you know the yeast is in the skin and the sugar is in the juice.so now I have four more vines including a 'black grape for some rosa'"

jimbatt@fsmail.net

"This sight is an excellent guide and a quick reference. I am growing grapes for the first time this year. Thank you"

cindy

"Thank you."

Western.D.K

"hi what about thinning the fruit please "

stuart

"Hi: I bought some grape vines and planted them a few weeks after I had purchased them when I went to plant them they seemed like they were dead, they were like dry branches. Is this normal?"

Nancy

"very useful tips, where i come from we have plenty of sun, but will need to confirm about the soil acidity with our local agricultural department i am planning to grow grapes,rasperies,blueberies,and many other interesting things. Kenya"

Amina

"very useful"

Ron

"Yes. Most useful. I want to start growing desert grapes next year so that my Gooseberries, Blackberries, Raspberries and Strawberries can complete my fruit salad."

Terry Loring

"HI, YOU DIDNT MENTION SOIL AT ALL?"

PAUL

"Thank you! I am just trying to get started with native grapes in our wood. Actually taking them out of the woods and bringing them closer to the house so the vines can be tended and in some cases possibly increase the production. This page is encouraging. thanks."

Frances

"how much pruning is required up to the flowers forming?"

dave stiggo

"I am trying to grow a couple of grape plants in my backyard garden. How far and how deep the grape tree root extend? Thanks."

Tom

"Very interesting. We live in PORTUGAL last year we had mouldy grapes. This year non at all to gather. I watered and thought this was the problem. Any suggestions of where I went wrong?"

maureen

"i foung this very helpful. but its a bit vague on what to do to get grapes of your vine and were they appear or do they grow at the end were you cut."

paul

"As i am a keen wine maker ( home brew ) i make wine out of various fruit etc i had a vine bought me for my birthday and ive read you info on growing vines and found it very good so i will give it ago and hopefully make a few bottles of good wine and i will use the site again .all the best "

Richard gilks

"This was an extremely informative article. I will now have to think about buying (from somewhere!) an American type of dessert grape. I live on the North-east coast of England (UK) and I have bought a Southern Italian vine....Uva Nera. I don't think this is going to flourish in this part of the world. I will plant it and see what happens in a year or two. I didn't pay a lot for it as it was a reduced item in the local supermarket. But, it did fire my interest and I can put it in my greenhouse. Your article has given me a lot of hope! thanks"

Brian Sigsworth

"This is an excellent article and has shown me the way forward with my new grapevine. I think I've got the wrong type for the North-east of England....Nevertheless I will still persevere and see what happens. I do have a sunny south facing wall to which I'll eventually plant my grapevine (which is Uva Nera) apparently this is an ancient grape variety from southern Italy. Can you believe that I bought this vine from my local Tesco store! Thanks for all the info. Most helpful."

brian sigsworth