Grapes are a delicious long season-crop that not only make a great addition to your little home farm, but their pretty vines are an enchanting garden aesthetic as well. If you take care of the plant in its initial stages, you’ll get a good crop that can yield a harvest for many years.
Grapes can grow in multiple environments, but the key to getting a healthy crop is to choose the right variety that can thrive in your area. Look through varieties of red grapes, like New York Muscat, Boskoop Glory, and Regent, and white grapes such as Muller Thurgau, Foster Seedling, and Schiava Grossa, to find one that will grow in your locality.
Make sure to get grapevine plants that are a year old at most, because these will grow vigorously compared to older ones. Purchase them from a reliable source so you know that you’re getting disease-free plants.
Set up a sturdy trellis before you get started because your grape vines need support in order to grow vertically. This makes your grape vine less susceptible to attacks by infections or pests. Prep your soil to be, well-drained, loose and free from invaders like weeds.
Before you plant, keep the roots of your grapevine plant moist by wrapping them loosely in a wet burlap sack – this keeps the root system from drying up. For each plant, dig a hole next to a supporting trellis. The hole should have a depth of 13 inches and width of 11 inches.
Add 3 inches of soil before placing your plant, and then add 5 more inches of soil to surround the roots and hold the plant in place. Add the rest of the soil till it reaches your soil line but make sure that it isn’t compressed- leave a good amount of air pockets for circulation.
During the first few years, the grapevine will have to establish its roots before it’s able to carry the weight of the grapes. Vines shouldn’t be growing any fruit in those years so trimming is important and must be completed before sprouts start to swell. Hence, the best time to get trimming is around mid-spring, during March and April.
You’ll want to trim 4/5th of last year’s increase in growth, at the very least, so that you end up with a good yield. In year one, trim off all the sprouting buds and leave only the most healthy-looking ones. When these buds bloom in the second year, remove surplus flower clusters because they’ll grow and leave buds on all your trail arms.
Unless your garden is suffering from bad soil, don’t fertilize the soil surrounding your grapevine in the first year. You can begin adding small amounts next year. Remember that it’s a bad sign if, in the following years, you begin to observe your grapevine yielding an unusually large amount of grapes. A large number of grape bunches results in bad-tasting grapes. This can be avoided if you make sure to trim off any extra flower clusters that appear odd and remove grape bunches, aside from the ones you selected, that grows.
Harvest during the end-months of summer till the beginning of fall. You’ll know when your grapes are ready for harvest when they have achieved good color and are sweet in taste. This is a no-brainer but doesn’t pick your grapes before they’re fully ripe.
You can check if they’re ready for harvest by tasting a few from different bunches. If you notice that your grapes aren’t growing well, check to see if they’re getting enough sunlight and whether the soil is rich enough in organic matter. Happy farming!