How to Grow Grapes

Grapevines and How to Grow Grapes

These are among the most ornamental and decorative of all plants and easily trained to fit into almost any sunny place. Especially attractive leaf colours in autumn make the crop almost a bonus. Yet grapevines are highly productive and tolerant of most soil, except very wet ones, and should not be overfed as this produces growth instead of fruit.

How to Grow Grapes - Vitis vinifera They do best against a wall or on wires over a patio, but where space is short they can be grown in large pots which can be stood outside most of the time, just moved under cover during hard frosts and while in fruit. Earlier crops can also be gained by taking pot-grown grapevines into a warm place in late winter, which brings their fruiting forward by months. Grapes can be used to cover almost any sized or shaped area inside or out with formal training, or just left to ramble over trees and sheds – though then the fruit is all eaten by the birds.

Vines are so vigorous they need hard summer pruning to control them even if in pots. Check out the method of pruning grapevines under cover as it applies to most vines indoors or out. Grapevines have many other specialised pruning methods, such as Guyot, many of which are more akin to pruning cordon raspberries or blackcurrants and these are more applicable outdoors in warmer climates than the UK.

Grapes are self-fertile and no problem – even under cover I’ve never seen a bad set, but they are supposed to need hand pollination. Thinning will prevent grapes overcropping, especially in the early years. Thin out the number of bunches to one every couple of feet or so before they swell, but do not bother to thin out the grapes in the bunches as this is tedious.

The most troublesome pests are birds, flies and wasps. They are defeated only by netting or covering the ripening bunches with stockings, paper or net bags. However, in wet years this may cause the fruit to rot. The best protection is to grow the vines in a cage or in containers that can be moved under cover when the fruit begins to ripen.

Some varieties are prone to mildew aggravated by dry conditions at the roots and stagnant air. This can be relieved by more open pruning, mulching and with preventative seaweed sprays. Where outbreaks occur you can also use sulphur or copper spray if necessary. Where permissible, sodium bicarbonate solution may be used to stop mildew. Other diseases are rare in the UK, though the fruit is prone to rot in wet years.

What is most important is to get a suitable variety of grape. ‘Black Hamburg’, commonly on sale, is completely unsuitable outside or even for a cold greenhouse most years in the UK, but is excellent in a heated greenhouse or conservatory, or out of doors in warmer parts of North America or Australia and of course southern Europe.

A warm wall will always produce better grapes than the open garden, but even in the open you can grow some grapes in most of the UK – and anywhere warmer. These can make good juice for drinking, even if they are poor eating. The time of ripening varies from year to year, but usually from late summer under cover and early autumn outdoors.

Grapes have been thought to be inhibited by laurels, radish and cabbages since classical times and aided by blackberries, hyssop and mustard. Outdoors, many pests are controlled through good garden hygiene and very effectively by keeping chickens underneath — except when the fruit is ripening.

Epicurean attentions

Without doubt grapes are best eaten fresh. Although the bunches look nice cut off entire for the table, the season can be extended by picking the ripest fruits from each bunch, which are thus judiciously thinned and the later grapes left to ripen till all are used up. When frost is likely, bunches can be cut when ripe with a stem which is inserted in a bottle of water. This will keep them fresh for many weeks if left in a cool place. Trim back the stem and change water weekly.

Grapes will jam or jelly, but do not freeze well — they juice easily which can be frozen, and of course, they can be turned into wine.

06. January 2011 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening | Tags: | Comments Off on How to Grow Grapes


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