Grapes are beautiful fruits with the unique decorative appeal. They also have a delicious taste and can be used for jams, syrup, salad, desserts, or even wine. Knowing how to grow grapes will give your home beautiful natural decorations. You also get good sources of vitamin B and C, iron, and copper.
Growing grapes requires specific preparations, especially for support, because grapes only grow in vines. You must also know the proper ways of pruning the vines. This guide will help you have successful grape harvests at home.
1. Best Times to Plant and Harvest Grapes
Grapes are typical fall harvests, and they need around 165 to 180 days since the first planting to bear fruits. You can wait until the last frost is over before planting grapes.
However, you must dedicate the first year to strengthen the vines instead of picking the fruits. While grapes do not give you quick harvests, you can always enjoy the beauty of the vines.
Grapes love neutral or slightly acidic soil, with full sunlight during the day. If you care for grapes properly, they can last for 30 years. You can start harvesting the fruits on the second harvests after planting. However, you can also wait for several years to get stronger vines and more abundant fruits.
2. Steps of Planting Grapes
Grape plants need multiple preparations, from preparing the seeds to constructing the supports. Here is what you need to do to plant grapes:
- Construct the supports
You must think about where you place the trellis or arbors, and how to arrange them. You must also choose a place with full sun. You must be able to provide 6 to 10 feet of distances between vines within these supports.
- Prepare the soil
Tilt the soil around the supports for the plants. If the soil is a little hardy, you can mix it with two inches of organic soil conditioner. You will use the topsoil to fill the planting holes.
- Prepare the plants
When buying grape plant starters, make sure they are dormant, healthy, and virus-free. Soak their roots in water for two to three hours before planting them.
- Plant the grapes
When you prepare the plants, dig the soil to create holes for the vines. Each hole must be around 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Fill the hole with four inches of the fertile topsoil. Place the plants in here, and cover with six inches of topsoil. Pat it before covering the hole with the remaining topsoil (don’t pat it).
After all, plants are planted, trim the first two or three buds. Water them deeply right after planting.
3. Best Ways to Prune the Grapes
Pruning grape vines are important to control the growth and produce more fruits. Pruning must be done once a year, especially during the plant’s dormant period (usually in winter).
Many people hesitate in pruning because they don’t want to damage the plants accidentally. However, heavy pruning is the best option to grow healthy, abundant crops.
Choose good pruning shears to do the job. Cut the sturdy, neglected canes. Take around three or four feet but leave one or two buds. Prune all old vines that block the renewed ones.
You may need to prune almost 90 percent of the vines during the first year. Leave several strong canes and a few buds in the first year. Tie these canes to the supports.
Prune all the canes in the second year and leave several buds on each arm. Remove all emerging flowers. Mulch the grape vines, but don’t use fertilizer during the first year unless the soil has problems.
4. Taking Care of the Grapes
Aside from pruning, taking care of grapes is quite straightforward. You need to protect them from birds or other pests by placing mesh nets over them. Avoid wet leaves by using drip irrigation method, since wetness can cause mildew. Grapes handle little water better than too much water, so be cautious and limit the watering.
Once you enter the second year, you can start fertilizing the grapes. Use slow-releasing organic fertilizer at the end of spring to encourage healthy growths. You can use emergency pruning, fungicide, or lime powder to treat common diseases such as mildew, black rot, and anthracnose.
5. Harvesting and Utilizing Grapes
Grapes can be harvested during early or late fall, before their dormant periods. The signs of ripe grapes are deeper, richer color and plump bodies. They must be juicy and smooth but easily crushed. You can taste a sample of grape from each cluster before picking them since grapes will not ripen once you pluck them.
You can store grapes in cardboard boxes or wooden crates, and place them in a cellar or other dark, dry places. Cushion the grapes with clean straws and avoid storing them with foods or ingredients with strong smells. They can last for about six weeks, so make sure you utilize them quickly.
Here are several ways to use your fresh grapes:
- Grape spread
The grape spread is great to eat bread, crackers, or sponge cake. Wash two cups of grapes and put them in a pot. Pour three cups of water and 1.5 cups of sugar. Stir them on medium heat until boiling.
Keep the pot boiling for 45 minutes until the mixture thickens. Dip a cold spoon in the thick slurry and put it in a freezer for three minutes. If the mixture does not run, your spread is ready. Strain and put into a jar.
- Simple fruit salad
Cut colorful fruits such as strawberries, pineapples, kiwis, and apples. Add grapes on the mix and put them in a bowl. Spread some honey and juice from one lemon or lime.
- Simple grape juice
Wash a bowl of grapes and soak them in water for five minutes. Put them in a blender and add sugar or honey (unless your grapes are sweet). Add cold water and blend. Strain the result and mix with juice from half lime or lemon. Stir, chill, and serve.
Knowing how to grow grapes is a great way to get fresh fruits and beautiful decorations. Make sure to provide strong supports and regular pruning. You must be patient, but the emerging fruit clusters will make you happy.