Like most plants, grape vines really like rich soil that is fairly well drained. However, they will grow well in soils heavier than most ornamental plants prefer. For one, they are very vigorous growers so soil that holds some moisture helps them.
New grape plants should be set out (planted) in the spring. Fall planting is not recommended in cold climates because the heaving of the soil during the freezing and thawing process can push freshly planted grapes vines out of the ground. Plant them in the spring to make sure they are rooted in nicely by fall.
If you are planting your grapes on an arbor, you can put the plants as close as 48″ apart. But if you are planting them in more of a garden setting on a trellis, they should be 7 to 8 feet apart. After planting wait about 7 to 10 days then apply about 8 ounces of 10-10-10 garden fertilizer. Just sprinkle the fertilizer on top of the soil, over the root zone.
Do not over fertilize. After the grape vines have been established for a year, you can apply about 16 ounces of fertilizer around the root zone each of each plant in the early spring.
Grape vines need support, so you need a system for supporting your grape vines. You can put posts in the ground and stretch one or two heavy wires between the posts. Make the
top wire about 60″ high and the lower wire about 36″ high. As your new grape plants grow, you’ll want to keep them pruned to a single vine until they almost reach the top wire, and then allow the vine to grow in two directions like a “T”. At this point you need to keep the vine tied to the wire as it grows. Grape vines can easily grow as much as 12′ in a season.
In the latter part of each winter grape vines require aggressive pruning. If they are not pruned, they will produce a great deal of grapes, but with that much fruit on the plant none of it will mature into quality fruit. So, you need to control that with heavy pruning.
Leave the main vine that grows along the wire or wires, then all vines coming off that vine need to be pruned back to just 3 to 5 nodes or buds. The nodes are the little bumps on the vine with the little curly cues growing from them. The part of the vine that you leave is called a spur. Space the spurs that you leave evenly along the vine, so they are not too close together. This part of the plant needs sunlight and good air circulation.
Mature plants will require removing as much as 80% to 90% of the previous year’s growth. In Ohio mid to late February is a good time to prune, so adjust your pruning around that time frame.
These varieties are all very popular and tolerate cold climates well: Concord, Niagara, Delaware, Reliance, Candice, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc. A well-maintained grape vine will produce grapes for over 30 years.
Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at FreePlants.com and read his blog at MikeBackYardNursery.com.
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