People have grown grapevines (Vitus spp.) for thousands of years, not only enjoying the plants' fruits fresh but also in the form of raisins, juice and wine. Although wildlife may compete with you for the bounty of your vineyard, it's still possible to grow enough of the fruits at home to give you and your family a healthful and tasty treat, though it won't happen overnight. Usually, establishing a successful grapevine planting takes three years, according to the Ohio State University Extension. Because grapevines can live up to 100 years, growing them right is worth the trouble.
Check Your Climate
Grapevines are typically perennial, or hardy, in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones ranging 5 through 10, with some varieties needing the warmer temperatures USDA zones 7 through 10. A few types can handle a bit more cold, surviving in USDA zones 4 through 8.
Choose Where to Plant
A vineyard needs plenty of sunlight, at least seven to eight hours of direct sun exposure per day, to ensure maximum fruit production and flavor. Many kinds of soil work for grapevines, but rock or hard-pan should be at least 3 to 4 feet below the soil. Soil with a pH level of 5.5 to 6.5 is ideal for grapevines. Fertile soil works well, but, according to the University of California's California Garden Web, many of the top wine grapes come from areas where the soil is rocky and lacks fertility. Good drainage is essential for any type of soil in which grapevines grow.
Grapevines should be planted in spring in rows 8 to 12 feet apart. Each vine within a row should be 6 to 9 feet from the next vine. The vines need a framework such as an arbor or trellis to keep them and their fruits off the ground. Ensure each plant has 50 to 100 square feet of arbor space.
Support Your Vines
The trellis or arbor should be in place before you plant grapevines. A trellis is typically a series of posts set along each row with wires stretched tightly from post to post for the row's the entire length. An arbor is larger and may support vines up its sides and over its top. New grape vines must be trained to climb either support by tying them loosely to the support until they begin to cling to it on their own.
Grapes don't require a lot of fertilizer to produce fruits. For the best results:
- Fertilize your grapevines at bud break, which is when the small leaf buds on each vine begin to swell in preparation for new growth.
Feed each grapevine about 1/2 to 1 ounce of nitrogen by using a fertilizer such as 16-16-16 the year you planted the vines.
Determine how much fertilizer to use by first figuring out the amount of nitrogen in the product. The first number, or percentage, in a fertilizer's three numbers is the product's amount, or percentage, of nitrogen. The nitrogen amount is 16 percent, or 0.16, in 16-16-16 fertilizer.
- Divide the amount of nitrogen you want to apply to each grapevine by the amount of nitrogen in the fertilizer to get the total amount of the fertilizer to
apply per plant. If you want to apply 1 ounce of nitrogen using 16-16-16
fertilizer, then divide 1 by 16, which results in roughly 6.3 ounces of fertilizerper plant.3. Increase the fertilizer amount to 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of nitrogen per plant the second year.
Don't let the fertilizer touch the vines. Instead, spread it in a circle that is 6 to 18 inches from all sides of each plant. Water the fertilizer into the soil after applying.
Provide Water and Mulch
Whether or not your grapevines need watering depends on the soil and your climate. In many areas, no water beyond rainfall is needed. If the soil dries out, though, irrigate it enough to allow water to seep into the ground to a depth of about 12 inches.
Adding mulch onto the soil surface around the base of each grapevine will help keep the plants from drying out. The mulch shouldn't touch the grapevines, however, because it may cause them to rot. The mulch layer should be 4 to 6 inches deep.