Growing Grapes

Published: 17th October 2008
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Growing Grapes - Summary.

Soil preparation

It is important to carefully select the planting site. Grapes can grow in a wide variety of soil types and pH ranges, certain conditions induce better growth and yields. First, grapes prefer well-drained and slightly acidic soil. The best pH is typically between 6.0 to 6.5, but grapes will grow in soils with pHs ranging from 5.5 to 7.5. If your soil is a little basic, you can add in sulphur or ammonium sulphate to decrease the soil pH. Ideally, grapes should be planted on a south-facing hillside, although in a home garden you may not have this luxury. You should choose a site in your garden that receives full sunlight - grapes do not like the shade. You will need to ensure that the soil at your selected site is worked over well before planting to remove any perennial weeds. Addition of peat moss or manure to the site will also help to improve soil quality.

Planting methods

The way you plant your grape vines is important for their health and productivity. Vines need to be planted approximately eight feet apart in rows that are between eight and ten feet apart. If you are planting on a sloped site, ensure that the rows run perpendicular to the slope. If your site is exposed to a strong prevailing wind, orientate your rows in the direction of the wind to minimize damage. It's preferable to choose one- or two-year-old, dormant, bare-root vines from a reputable provider. Soak the roots of the vines for several hours prior to planting. When planting, ensure that the hole is slightly larger than the root system of the plant and that the vines are set at a depth equivalent to the one they grew in at the nursery. If your vines are grafted, ensure that the grafting union is approximately two inches above the soil. Once you have planted the vines, you'll need to remove all but the most vigorously growing cane and cut this back to just one or two buds.

Training your grape vines

To facilitate cultivation, harvesting, pest control and to maximize yield, grapes are trained to a specific system. There are many different training systems, however the single curtain and four- or six-cane Kniffin systems are most suitable for home gardeners. The four-cane Kniffin system trains four fruiting canes to two trellis wires whilst the six-cane Kniffin system trains six canes to three wires. The six-cane system is best for less vigorous grape varieties. Using the single curtain system, the main trunk of the vine is attached to a horizontal wire approximately six feet above the ground. Two cordons (extensions of the main trunk) grow along the wire to the left and the right of the trunk, with five or six fruiting canes on each cordon.

Pruning your grape vines

Annual pruning of your vines will be necessary to ensure optimum yield and sufficient vine growth to produce next year's crop. The best time for pruning is late Winter or early Spring, during the vine's dormant phase. You'll need to keep a few things in mind when pruning; fruit is borne on one-year old canes, the most productive of which are between 0.25 and 0.30 inches in diameter. The most productive buds occur in the middle of the cane, so it is best to prune canes to between eight and 16 buds. New farmers may find the advice of an experienced viticulturist helpful.

Harvesting your grapes

Harvesting should occur when the grapes are fully ripe. Colour isn't always a reliable indicator of maturity, so taste-testing is essential! Cut the grape clusters from the vine with a sharp knife and handle the grapes by their stems. Grapes do not handle or store well, so enjoy the fruits of your labour as soon as possible!

This is only a summary of how to grow grapes. For a more complete and much more helpful explanation of how to really sky rocket your grape crops, you need the get YOUR copy of the Complete Grape Growers Guide.

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