November 24, 2021
If you are considering growing grapevines in your backyard, the first question to ask yourself is, “What is the function of my vineyard?” Will you be growing grapes to enhance the aesthetic of your landscape, are you interested in making wine, or do you want to grow grapes to eat fresh or cook into jams/jellies? Certain varieties of grapes are better suited for each of these purposes.
The next step is to determine what kind of soil you have, which will be the deciding factor in what type of rootstock you select. There are many rootstock choices available to grow grapevines in most soils. Sand? Clay? Silt? What type of soil do you have? A soil “mudshake” can help you determine what type of soil you have.
In most regions, grapevines do not do well when grown on their own roots. The scion varieties (e.g. pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, etc.) are grafted to rootstocks with beneficial traits such as low or high vigor, drought tolerance or pest resistance.
The best time to plant dormant vines is mid-March through mid-June, although for some locations this can be extended.
The best time to plant potted vines is Spring (after the threat of frost has passed) through mid-June, although for some locations this can be extended.
Vines can be planted later in areas where the first frost of the season is late December or January, if at all. If vines are planted later than July 15th, no nitrogen fertilizer should be added. Doing so can lead to late vegetative growth which makes the vine more susceptible to late frost die back.
Grapevines need full sun, about 7 to 8 hours per day. Less than this will lead to impaired fruit production and poor quality. Ideal soil is loose, deep and well-draining.
You will need to set up your vineyard with an arbor, trellis or other support structure before planting your grapes. Home grapes are often grown on arbors. Use one vine per 50 to 100 sq. ft. of arbor space.
If you want to grow rows of grapes, spacing can be as little as 5 ft. where the soils are marginal and up to 12 ft. for wider trellis systems and deep, rich soil. Vine spacing within the row is typically 4 to 6 apart.
For full instructions on planting, please visit the links below:
Newly planted vines will need consistent irrigation throughout the first growing season. How much, the duration of irrigation, and number of irrigation events necessary will depend on soil texture.
For a newly planted vine, we recommend 5 to 8 gallons a week for the first six weeks. For soils that are “light,” (i.e. having a high degree of sand) it is recommended that irrigation be split into 3 evenly spaced days a week. A good example would be Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with 3 gallons each day. In a situation where soils are “heavier,” (i.e. having higher clay content) less irrigation will be needed. A good example might be Tuesday and Friday, with 4 gallons per irrigation cycle. Warmer days (where temperatures rise above 95 degrees for more than 5 hours) will require longer periods of irrigation and possibly additional irrigation cycles.
Many grapevines will produce fruit within 1 to 3 years of planting. Vines should be heavily pruned for the first 2 years, as this will help to develop the root system. Any fruit that develops would also be removed, again to ensure a strong root system. In the 3rd year, you will be ready to harvest in the late summer or early fall.