Not only are grapes a healthy food to eat, but few things taste any better than fresh grapes plucked straight from the vine. In addition, because grapes grow in virtually every area of the country, all it takes is a spot to plant them and most home gardeners can enjoy this tasty fruit fresh from their own vines. However, grape vines take time to grow and to become established before they begin producing fruit.
Grape vines require patience. The first several years after grape vines are planted they do not produce fruit. During those first few years grape vine's root structure grows and the vine develops strong and numerous branches to hold all those grapes it eventually produces. But do not expect to see any grapes until at least the third year. In addition, it takes about five to six years for grapevines to begin producing a consistent, heavy crop of grapes. But the wait is worth it -- one mature vine can produce 10 lbs. or more of fresh grapes per season.
Selecting a Site
Because grape vines take at least three years to begin producing fruit, planting represents a long-term commitment. Once established, with proper care grape vines can live and produce grapes for 50 to 100 years. So plant the vines in the right spot, because it disrupts their growth to move them. Choose a sunny, well-drained area to ensure reliable production of quality grapes. In climates where spring frost is possible, select a sheltered spot. When planting in rows, the vines receive more sunlight if planted in a north-to-south direction and that results in higher-quality grapes.
Basic Grape Categories
With hundreds of different cultivars there is plenty of choice. To help make your decision, it helps to know that there are four basic categories of grapes, Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia), American (Vitis labrusca), European (Vitis vinifera) and French hybrids, which are crosses of V. vinifera cultivars with wild American species that are resistant to disease, according to West Virginia University Extension. Regardless of your choice, all grapevine varieties take about the same time before they begin producing fruit. In addition, a local nursery will have a selection of grapes that grow best in your area.
Choosing Grape Vines
Grapes come in seeded or seedless varieties in many different colors including white, green, red, black, blue-black and purplish. Decide if you want to grow bunch grapes, which includes Concord, or Muscadine grapes, which includes Scuppernogs, or grow both. Bunch grapes are self-fertile and can be planted alone or with other varieties. Keep in mind that some grapes are more high-maintenance than others. While the American grape varieties are resistant to disease, the vinifera type grapes need periodic chemical sprays during the year to control pests. American and French-American hybrids are the most commonly grown types for home gardens.