As wineries in the US get about 30 million visitors every year, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a lot of people are now becoming interested in growing grapes in their backyards. Sure, not all vineyard tourists aren’t exactly dreaming of having one themselves but you can’t deny that the numbers show that there’s a significant interest in the process. There’s something about these places that offers a marvelous retirement picture that you might want to replicate by growing a patch of organic grapes at home.
If there’s one thing that you should know, however, about planting grapes is that you can’t just place some seeds into the ground and wait for a sprout. This is a crop that’s a bit more complicated than that. Some gardeners even reluctantly avoid starting a patch because they’ve always been difficult and fragile. Cultivating them means that you have to exert a good deal of effort to get a good yield.
Don’t let all of these dissuade you from having a few vines at home, though. There are certain grape varieties that are hardy and less delicate than the ones grown before. There are different varieties that can suit different regional conditions as well.
These mean that you don’t necessarily have to worry about heavy maintenance and the local climate hurting your crops if you choose the right variety for your garden patch.
If you want to learn more about growing a grape garden, let this guide help you out.
7 Great Reasons to Grow Organic Grapes at Home
Before we go to the technical parts of growing organic grapes, you might first want to know why you should invest some time, money, and effort in such a project. So here are 10 amazing reasons that might convince you to take the plunge:
1. These plants are quite versatile.
Grapevine plants are nice additions to a lot of yards because they serve many purposes. Some folks don’t really plant them for their fruits as they can also work wonders as an ornamental plant.
Their vines look pretty when grown over a fence, trellis, or arbor. They can contribute some coziness and charm to your curb appeal, that’s for sure. They can also provide some nice shade and cooling when grown on the roof of your patio.
So even if you’re not sure if you can make these plants bear fruit, you can still get a lot of good use from them.
2. Grapes are some of the most lucrative legal crops in the world.
If you’re planning to learn how to plant grapes for commercial purposes, you might be able to cash in on the large demand for these crops. They’re said to have a value of $625,000 per sq. km which can explain why a lot of people are also considering to start their own vineyards.
3. It would be nice to have your own garden-fresh grapes.
With proper care and maintenance, your grape plant can also easily bear fruits that you can enjoy at home.
4. Grapevines can bear a good amount of fruit.
Experts call them of the “less is more” plant variety because even just one plant can already give you about 20 lbs of fruits in a year. That’s already a good deal if you just want to have some for personal consumption.
5. Grapes are good for you.
These fruits are rich in various vitamins and minerals, for starters. They also have properties that will help protect you from cancer, boost your heart health, reduce the risks of diabetes, and help in allergy management. It can also help treat acne, so it can certainly be a great addition to your diet.
6. They can draw in helpful insects into your yard.
Experts say that grapevines attract lacewings and lady beetles which eat landscape pets. So if you have a huge garden, having a few vines creep about can also help protect the other plants in the vicinity.
7. They look really nice all year long.
Grapes plants look nice and ornamental no matter what the season is. They can definitely be a charming addition to your garden.
Planting Organic Grapes: The Basics
If you’re now convinced that a grape plant would be an excellent addition to your garden, you’re now ready to learn about how to grow organic grapes at home.
Of course, you can always opt to grow it non-organically. But if you’re growing these plants for personal consumption, why not aim for the highest quality of produce?
Backyard-grown organic fruits are certainly great contenders for such since you’ll know exactly what touched your produce.
Before we go into the step-by-step procedure, however, we’ve rounded up a few things that should help you prepare for the process. Keep these in mind and you might find it easier to grow grape vines in your backyard.
Growing organic grapes can be a challenge.
There are tons of pathogens, pests, and diseases that can make grapevine care quite a rigorous process. Fungal diseases are common and there are limited treatment options so disease resistance is not uncommon.
Proper maintenance is also highly necessary if you want to ensure the healthy growth of your plants. There are a few specific steps that are crucial in learning how to grow grapes, so you should make sure to get to know them.
Doing ample research will help you get around most of the challenges, however. From learning how long does it take for grapes to grow to how to fight pests from hurting your crop, you’re sure to find the most effective answers with thorough research.
Choosing the right grape variety can make the process a lot simpler.
One of the first things that you’ll learn when researching about planting grapevines is that choosing the correct variety is a very crucial part of the process. They can determine just how hard the maintenance and care requirements will be. They can also help you choose how fast you can start harvesting.
However, the most important factor when choosing the right grape variety is their corresponding hardiness zone. This will determine whether a specific kind of grape plant will survive in your region and climate.
Then there’s also the issue of diseases. As mentioned above, these fruit plants are susceptible to diseases and pests so growing them organically can be tricky.
By choosing the right variety, however, you can avoid some of the most common issues in the process. While all types of grapes can be grown organically, some varieties are more fungal-resistant than others.
There a few grapevine varieties available in the market today. If you’re thinking of growing concord grapes, the Vinis Labrusca is the species to look into. It’s possibly the most popular and widely grown variety there is. It’s made to withstand very cold climates and can thrive in the hardiness zones 3 to 8. Valiant grapes have similar traits to the Labrusca as well. They all have a distinct flavor that makes them perfect for making jelly, wine, and juice.
The Vitis Vinifera, on the other hand, can grow in hardiness zones 7 to 10. It’s commonly grown for wines and table use. The Vitis Rotundifolia have a wider hardiness rating as it can thrive in zones 5 to 10. They’re great for covering grapes trees and backyard grape trellises because their vines can grow up to 100 feet.
For a more ornamental variety, the Vitis Californica is a solid option. It can thrive in hardiness zones 7a to 10b and give your home or backyard a burst of bright fall colors.
Not all varieties might work for what you have in mind or your location, however. It’s best to do thorough research before deciding on which variety to go for.
Providing enough room in your backyard would be necessary to ensure the healthy growth of grapevines.
Another crucial thing to remember when you’re planning on planting grapes is that they’ll require a good amount of space. As mentioned above, some grapes on a vine can grow as long as 100 feet so you should make sure to allocate enough space for these plants.
Luckily, with grapes being vine plants, it’s easy to make use of dead space for them. You can easily set up a trellis for grapes and place it nearly anywhere in your property. You can even have it sit flush on your house’s walls and it will grow nicely while giving your house a rustic feel. You can also opt to have them grow on a patio canopy to maximize more vertical spaces in your property.
If you have a large backyard, you can also construct dedicated grapevine support structures for your plants. You can tie down your plants on these things and they’ll climb on it as they grow out.
Keep an eye on the ties, however, as they can cut into the trunk of your grapevine as it grows bigger. This can hurt your plant and cause growth issues. Make sure to keep them relatively loose and replace them from time to time.
Growing grapes in containers is also possible if you can’t commit a patch of land for these plants. You just need to be careful in choosing a container. The pot should be at least 15-gallons in size. Avoid dark-colored pots as well because they can cause the roots of your plant to get too hot. Wooden containers are better recommended, however. Add a trellis to this setup and you’re good to go.
Plant from cuttings instead of seeds.
Before you search for ‘how to plant grape seeds?’ online, you should know that a lot of experts actually recommend propagating grapes from cuttings instead of seeds. Seeds do not completely carry the genetic traits of a variety so you won’t be guaranteed to get the same traits of the source plant in your new crop.
By planting cuttings, however, starting a grape plant can be done more easily and successfully. You just need a one-year-old growth with 4 buds and measures 12 to 18 inches. Preparing them properly for planting will promise you better results than seeds.
Plant your grapes at the right time of the year.
Timing your planting is also essential if you want your grapevine to grow healthily. The right time for the task depends, however, on the plant and your location. Some are best planted in the last days of winter or the early spring. This will give them enough time to bulk up for the next winter. Other experts, however, recommend planting in the fall.
How to Grow Organic Grapes in Your Backyard: A Step-by-Step Guide
After covering the very basic points of how to grow grapes in your backyard, you’re now pretty much ready to start learning how to plant grape vines. So without further ado, here are the steps in planting organic grapes:
1. Select the right grape variety for your location and gardening capabilities.
As mentioned above, choosing the right grape variety will start your project on the right foot. You can’t just buy cuttings of your favorite grape variety, however. So if you’re planning to grow Concord grapes, make sure that your location can meet its requirements. We’ve also mentioned a number of other considerations for this topic as well, so make sure to keep them in mind.
2. Choose the right location for your grapes on the vine.
Select a spot in your backyard that gets full sun and with excellent soil drainage. Air circulation is also essential, so make sure that the area where you’ll put your grapevine gets some air.
After choosing, prepare the area by digging up and loosening the soil for up to 24 inches deep. Put some compost in it if the soil is in need of some nutrition. You should also add some organic matter and ensure that the pH level of the soil is within the range of 6.5 to 7.0. Stick with these for grape fertilizers to ensure the organic method of growing your grapevine.
3. Prepare the materials needed for planting.
Since grape plants are vines, you can’t just plant them on the ground and call it a day. You’ll need to do a bit of construction to support the vines as they grow out. You’ll find lots of information on how to build these structures online so you don’t have to worry about how you can get started.
Make sure to install the structure first before doing any planting. This will minimize the chances of you damaging the roots of your grapevine in the process.
4. Start planting.
If you’re planting dormant bare root vines, you have to plant them as soon as you receive them. You should also make sure to soak them in water for up to 4 hours before placing them in the ground.
If you’re transplanting from a pot, you don’t have to do it right away. The plant is growing on the pot anyway, so there’s no need to rush.
If the cutting is grafted, it’s recommended to keep the graft above ground. If it’s not, plant it 18” into the soil. This promises better yield and can help encourage the plant to root deeply. As these plants can flourish for up to 40 years, doing this will help give them a good headstart.
5. Maintain the plants diligently.
The upkeep of grapevines isn’t that complicated but it can be a bit specific. Some of the things that you need to do are the following:
- Keep it well-watered. The best soaker hoses will get water straight to the roots of your grape vines so they help make this task more efficient.
- Pull-out weeds regularly. Weeds compete with the nutrients on the soil and harm grapevines so you should make sure that there are no weeds where your grapes are planted.
- Plant a cover crop like a local clover species. These will help control weeds, attract beneficial insects, improve the soil quality, and minimize water consumption. They can also provide warmth to your plant in the cold months, so they can be good additions in your grapevine patch.
- Be on the lookout for signs of diseases and pests. In case they occur, you should use approved organic methods to deal with the problem.
6. Add some organic fertilizer for grapes at the right time of the year.
Fertilizing grapes is quite easy. Place a 1-2” layer of compost on top of the soil around the vine roots every midsummer. This will help foster your grape plant’s growth.
7. Learn the right pruning techniques for your grapevine variety.
Pruning your grapevine is a crucial step in how to grow grape vines. This task can help prevent diseases and encourage maximum productivity.
There are various techniques in doing this, however, depending on the plant’s variety, your location’s climate, the age of your plant, and the training system in use.
While there are various steps in this procedure, it can be simplified to the following instructions:
Year 1: No pruning
Year 2: Create a ‘T’ surrounding the strongest and healthiest stem.
Year 3: Encourage the growth of about 12 buds on top of the T.
Year 4 and the following years: Prune the 12 buds leaving 1 or 2 before the dormant season.
8. Harvest only when the fruits are fully ripe.
Unlike other fruits, grapes do not ripen after plucking it out from the plant. This is why you shouldn’t harvest it before it becomes completely ripe.
How would you know if it’s already ripe? Taste a few. You can’t just rely on their color because some varieties change in appearance before ripening.
Make sure to handle the clusters gently and carefully, too. You don’t want them to break up, especially if you wish to sell them.
Growing grapes can be tricky but it’s certainly worth the effort. With the right knowledge, you might not even find it hard to grow at all. Give it a try and you might just find grapes a fulfilling plant to have in your backyard.