Did you know that the oldest grape vine in America is over 400 years old? Or that grapes can help prevent heart attacks, help cure asthma, migraines, indigestion, fatigue, and kidney disease? (source)
Doesn’t it makes you want to eat more grapes?
Well, if you want to eat more of them, then you should certainly learn how to grow them. Which is what I’d like to help you with.
So this post is going to share with you how to pick your grape variety, how to plant them, growing challenges you could face, tips for helping your grapes grow stronger, and also recipes to help you utilize them once you’ve managed to grow them.
That’s a lot of material to cover so let’s get started:
Grape Plant Info
- Hardiness Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
- Soil: Loamy, sandy, clay, PH between 6.0 to 7.0, fertile, well-drained
- Sun Exposure: Full sun
- Planting: In early or mid spring after all danger of frost has passed
- Spacing: 6 to 10 feet between plants and rows
- Depth: Plant the vines at the same level as in the nursery
- Best Companions: Chive, clover, mustard, peas, blackberry, oregano, geranium
- Worst Companions: Potato, radish, garlic
- Watering: Water regularly, at least once in 10 days during hot weather
- Fertilizing: Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of 16-16-8 fertilizer 2 to 3 inches deep and 10 to 12 inches from the plant when planting and again in March of the second year
- Common Problems: Anthracnose, Armillaria root rot, botrytis bunch rot, eutypa dieback, esca, leaf blight, leaf spot, powdery mildew, black rot, crown gall, pierce’s disease, young vine decline, black vine weevil, grape cane girdler, grape mealybug, Japanese beetle
- Harvest: 1 to 3 years after planting, harvest when the grapes are rich in color, juicy, full-flavored, easily crushed but not shriveled, and plump
How to Pick Your Grape Variety
There are three main varieties of grapes that are most common for people to grow. The first option is the American grapes. They are known for their ability to withstand the colder temperatures.
Common types of American grapes are:
The second option is the European variety which prefers warmer temperatures and are actually better for making wine than for eating. S
However, European grapes are what is most commonly grown in the United States. Varieties of European grapes are:
- Black Beauty
- Black Corinth
- Flame Seedless
- Red Globes
- Red Malaga
Finally, the third most picked variety is the North American Muscadines. These are usually found in the south as they prefer warmer temperatures.
You should consider which types of grapes you enjoy the most as to which variety you’ll want to plant. I personally have muscadines, concords, and white seedless grapes growing in my backyard. You should also consider what purpose you have the grapes when deciding on the variety as well. The American grapes are usually what are used for eating while the European grapes are most commonly used for wine making.
So you’ll want to keep that tidbit in mind when choosing your grape variety.
Where and How to Plant Your Grapes
You will want to plant your grapes in the early spring when your grape vines are still dormant. You should ask if your variety of grape plant is self-fertile when you purchase it. Most are, but be sure to ask so you’ll know whether you have to pollinate your grape vine or not.
Be sure to build a trellis or plant your grapes near a fence so they’ll have somewhere to run. You will have to train the vine while it is young so it’ll know where to grow.
Once you have purchased your grape vine and figured out the trellis situation, you’ll want to soak the roots in water for 2-3 hours before you plant it.
However, be sure to plant the grapes in full sun in well drained, deep soil. If you don’t have a location with full sun, then plant your grape vines in an area where they will at least get morning sun.
Then you’ll need to be sure to plant them in a 12×12 hole. If you plant an American or European variety, then they need around 6-10 feet between each vine.
Yet, if you are planting muscadines then you’ll need to give around 16 feet between each vine. Be sure to examine the roots of the vine before planting. If you see dead roots, trim those off before planting.
After placing the vine in the ground, be sure to cover half of the hole with loose top soil and then stamp it down.
Then place the remainder of the loose soil in the hole and water heavily. That is all there is to planting your new grape vine(s).
Care Tips for Your Grape Vines
Caring for your grape vines isn’t particularly difficult either. You will need to learn a few basic skills and follow a few simple steps, and your grapes should take off in no time.
So you will want to begin by not fertilizing the first year of planting. You don’t want to allow the plant to bear fruit for the first couple of years in order for the vine’s roots to become well established.
You will need to be sure to prune your grape vine yearly and don’t be afraid to remove up to 90% of the plant’s foliage during the first couple of years.
After the first few years, feel free to fertilize the vines as needed and be sure to prune the vine. The well established branches can stay while the newer, weaker branches of the vine will need to be cut back.
That is all of the basic care that a grape vine will need. They are rather self-sufficient which is a great thing for the gardener because it is less you have to do.
Common Diseases that Grapes Deal With (and the Treatment)
There are certain diseases that can threaten your grape vines. Here is what they are what you can do about them:
1. Downy Mildew
You may notice downy mildew on your grape vines. You will see the first signs of infection on the foliage of your vine. It will appear as yellow spots on the leaves.
You can treat downy mildew with fungicides and choosing varieties that are capable of withstanding this disease.
Since downy mildew attacks most American varieties, you should keep that in mind when choosing your variety of grape vines.
2. Powdery Mildew
Powdery mildew literally looks like powder all over the foliage of the grape vine. It is a fungus as well so moisture obviously plays a huge role in this disease.
You can treat this disease with the use of fungicides.
3. Grey Mold
Grey mold usually impacts ripe fruit. They will become grey, watery, and rather mushy looking. Then they will develop a film of fungus on them.
Proper pruning techniques will help to keep the grape vine sanitized and clear of grey mold. Removing old shoots of grape vines will keep help insure proper air circulation. You will also want to keep the plant weeded during growing seasons.
You will know that your grapes have this disease if you see dark brown spots on the leaves of the grape vines.
This is a fungus so applying lime sulfur while the vine is dormant will help to keep this disease at bay. Also, making sure that you prune out any diseased shoots from the vine will help to stop the disease from spreading.
5. Black Rot
Black rot is another fungal disease. It forms when you have a wet grow season. You will begin to notice black spots on the leaves of the vine. Then the fruit will turn black as well.
The best way to treat this disease is by pruning to provide proper airflow. You will also want to use fungicides in order to contain this disease as well.
6. Crown Gall
Crown gall comes from the soil. You will know that you have it if your grape vine begins developing round growths on it. This disease develops within your grape vine during injury to the plant while pruning or injury from freezing.
Crown gall can remain alive in the soil for many years. So be sure to buy healthy grape vines that are showing no sign of crown gall. Also, try to cover the vine with natural burlap during the winter months in order to protect the plant.
If you come across grape vines that have developed it, you’ll need to cut that section of the vine off and destroy it so it will not compost back into the ground and spread the disease.
Growing Grapes Tips and Tricks
Caring for your grape vines seems to be pretty straight forward. You need to practice proper pruning and make sure to fertilize after the first two years.
It is also recommended to place natural burlap around your vine to protect from harsh cold snaps.
However, I had an old farmer tell me recently to place a rusted nail in the ground next to my grape vines. He told me that grapes love iron and that when it rained the iron from the rusted nail would go into the ground and nourish the roots of the grape vines.
I am trying this myself this year because it made sense to me, but I will try to post an update in the comments below when I see my results.
Recipes to Utilize Your Fresh Grapes
1. Fresh Grape Sherbet Recipe
I am a huge fan of sherbet, but I’m also a huge fan of clean eating. So when I came across this recipe for fresh grape sherbet it definitely peeked my interest.
So if you are in the market for a tasty way to use your grape vines, then give this recipe a quick glance. Fresh sherbet is a great way to experience your homegrown grapes in a different way. Plus, it is also a way to add a little nutrition to an ice cream treat.
2. Concord Grape Spread
One of my favorite treats is homemade bread with fresh, homemade grape spread. It is a fresh, sweet, and filling treat. Plus, it is extremely delicious, too.
So if you like homemade bread and jam then you’ll definitely want to check out this delicious recipe. It is one that could also be shared as a gift as well. A lot of people love homemade and delicious gifts.
3. Goat Cheese Grape Balls
I liked this recipe because I thought it was a delicious and different quick snack or appetizer that could be thrown together in a crunch.
Plus, I not only raise grapes, but I raise goats as well. So this is one more way to utilize my homemade goat cheese and grapes. If you need something a little different to snack on then you might want to give this recipe a try.
4. Grape Pecan Chicken Salad
We love chicken salad around our house. For me, the more ingredients added to it, the happier I can be. I think chicken salad on a warm and buttery croissant is an ultimate lunch idea.
So this chicken salad certainly peeked my interest. It has lots of grapes and pecans included which makes a delicious addition to any salad or sandwich. The next time you make chicken salad, keep this recipe in mind.
5. Rainbow Fruit Salad
My kids are extremely picky eaters. They don’t care for most anything healthy which is kind of ironic considering we raise most of our food.
But fruit salad is the game changer in my house. When I add lots of sweet fruit together, they can’t help but leave the bread alone and try something freshly grown. If you have picky eaters, maybe this will help you too.
Well, there are my tips for growing grapes. I hope that this helps you figure out which type of grape you’d like to grow, how to grow them successfully, and also some delicious recipes to help you use your homegrown grapes.
But I’d love to know your grape growing secrets. How do you successfully raise grapes? Do you have any favorite grape recipes? Would you consider sharing them with our community?