Sweet and delicious grapes are undeniably one of the most versatile fruits. They can be eaten raw, juiced, and for the best part, they are made into wine. They also serve as ornamental plants. The fruits themselves are used to decorate any platter to make it more appealing to eat.
However, the species to be planted depends on the purpose it’ll serve. That’s why in this article, I’ll be discussing how you should grow grapevines during spring. I’ll also touch on several aspects such as the best grape species to grow depending on your climate, their conditions for growth, how to fertilize them, and finally, how to care for them.
The Best Grapes for Home Gardens
There are four common grape species planted worldwide. They include the Muscadine, European, American, and French-American hybrids.
Muscadine: Vitis rotundifolia, aka Muscadine grapes, is native to the United States. Its color ranges from bronze to purple. They grow large and are very thick-skinned.
It takes them about three to four months to mature, with as many as four to ten fruits appearing per cluster. They are highly tolerant of various diseases and pests. This makes them very sustainable to grow in the US.
The muscadine has various cultivars that have been extensively tested to show that they are suited for the southeastern US. In other regions such as Florida, they’ll produce consistently low yields, poor flavor, develop an excessively thick skin, and the fruits will be considerably smaller.
These cultivars have either been adapted for processing into juice, fresh produce, wines, and jelly. Those suited for making juices and wines must have a high level of color stability, although this isn’t a critical factor.
European: Vitis Vinifera, aka European grapes, is believed to produce wines of the highest quality. They are usually black, red, or purple seedless grapes. Depending on its cultivar, it comes in different shapes. Some are long (finger grapes), some are round shapes, and some are even teardrop-shaped.
American: Vitis labrusca, aka American grapes, are native to North America. The most common of this type is the Fox grape. It is known for its small clusters, large berries, and its fair resistance to pests. It has a strong, and distinct flavor that is not as prominent as that of its European counterpart.
French American: From the name, you can tell that these grapes are hybrids. They possess the superb quality of European grapes with the pest and disease resistance of American grapes. Talk about the best of both worlds. Its flavor is more subtle than that of its parent cultivars, but it remains fresh and crisp when used for making wines.
All these grape types can be bought at local farmer’s markets to begin planting during the spring season.
How to Plant Grapes
Spring is undeniably the best time for planting new grapevines. This is because the weather is not too cold, there’s enough sunlight, and there exists no possible chance of the temperatures reducing to zero degrees. This is an event that will unintentionally damage the trees. Here’s what you need to about how to plant grapes:
Method of Propagation: Five methods are commonly used to propagate grapes. These methods include:
- Planting its seeds: This isn’t a commercial option because the genetics of the new plant will vary from that of its parent plant.
- Grafting: Many vineyards use this method to ensure the disease resistance of their grapevines.
- Harwood Cuttings: This method involves recycling the pruned vines of the plant that was thrown away.
- Layering: This is commonly used by experts to expand a grape patch.
- Greenwood cuttings: Most prefer to use these for their vineyards because the plants multiply really quickly.
Planting Season: Grapevines are to be planted sometime in January or February when they are dormant. Grape seeds however should be planted during spring.
Fruit Growth Period: It takes grapes three years to begin bearing fruit. This cycle begins during early spring when the bud breaks and through constant pruning, you’ll get an abundant fruit yield.
Harvest Period: Depending on the cultivars, harvesting could begin as early as late July till September. This is normally done by hand. You’ll just have to shake the berries off the vines. Place a tarp beneath the vines to prevent the fruits from falling on the ground so it doesn’t get in contact with human pathogens or contaminated by decay.
USDA Hardiness Zone: Depending on its variety, grapes can grow in zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. This lets us know that it’s a very versatile plant.
Planting Soil: The best planting soil for any grape variety is loamy soil.
Ideal pH Planting Levels: Soils with pH levels ranging between 5.5 and 6.5 are the best for growing grapevines. pH level below or above this will result in lower fruit yields while affecting the vines.
Exposure to Sunlight: Planting grapes in the shade affects if fruit production. They’ll be less abundant, the fruits will also be smaller and less sweet. Planting them in areas with abundant sunlight makes them grow bigger, better, and sweeter.
To plant grapevines,
- Buy dormant, bare-root vines from your local gardening store.
- Soak it up in a bucket of water for at least an hour.
- Select a planting site that has full exposure to sunlight.
- Ensure that the soil is also well-drained and well-aerated for proper air circulation within the soil.
- Dig up your soil to about ten inches deep and wide so that the roots can be completely covered by the soil.
- Set up a trellis (this could be a bamboo stick) in the planting area that will help support the grapevine to grow upwards.
- Water the vine and don’t pat the soil around it. This keeps the soil loosened and allows for the roots to absorb lots of water.
Finally, you can begin fertilizing the soil during the second year of growth of the grapevines. This should be done lightly. During the first year of growth, your focus should be pruning. This ensures that you have more growth, and a better trunk and root system for when they finally begin to produce fruit.
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