How to Grow Backyard Grapes
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The COVID-19 pandemic inspired curiosity to learn new topics. Inflation catalyzed cutting corners financially. The internet’s wealth of resources encouraged independence and that anyone could do anything. These things are leading households to revert to more resourceful living, empowering families to learn they have time, money, and resources to grow their own food. Why not start with backyard grapes?
Grapes are easy to maintain and provide a reliable, nutritious, yet sweet snack much closer than the grocery store. Here are the steps to prepare your grape-growing operation and how to keep it up for more than one season.
Can I Grow Grapes in My Backyard?
The short answer is yes, but there’s a reason so many citizens ask this question. Because of zoning guidelines, you can’t plant anything you want in your backyard. It encourages local areas to produce native wildlife to bolster existing organic processes from other nature. Forcing non-native species to unfamiliar places could disrupt soil compositions or introduce native species to potentially toxic or harmful plants.
Therefore, knowing how your local agricultural departments designate your area is essential. In the U.S., the USDA has a Plant Hardiness map, and it suggests grapes be in zones 4-10, which covers most areas. It’s one of the reasons why growing backyard grapes is so simple, because it’s versatile and agreeable to most conditions and regions.
What Should I Consider Before Growing Grapes?
Every grape-growing endeavor looks different depending on what you want to use them for. Are you making wine? Are you canning preserves or jelly? Or are you just enjoying them as an occasional snack? You can have multiple, but each goal has various peripherals to execute the plan.
How Do I Grow Backyard Grapes?
Most gardening journeys require the same steps, but they need a more particular setup because grapes grow on vines. Here’s how to plan out your backyard grapes in a few streamlined steps.
1. Scope and Measure the Space
Grapes can grow horizontally in rows or vertically in trellises, each with their space requirement. Professionals recommend vines be around eight feet apart. You can start with seed or vine — both need to be in direct sunlight for about a third of the day in high temperatures and decent humidity. Starting from seed could push out fruit-bearing for several years. Beginning with a vine can shave off some of that grueling wait time to see results. If you’re starting with a vine, you can measure a space fit for the specimen.
The purpose of the grapes will matter in mapping space because you will need more vines for wine than mere eating. It will also help if you discover how you will distribute the product afterward — do you intend to use them just for the home or gift them to friends and family? Are you going to go to farmers markets?
2. Pick a Grape Variety
There is no shortage of options to pick from when there are 10,000 varieties of grapes on Earth. They range from flavor profiles to difficulty in growing. Some may be native to your region, so it’s critical to have preferential treatment over these breeds before adventuring out into more exotic variants. Here are some of the most notable:
- Thompson Seedless
3. Tend to the Soil
Grapes dig deep into the Earth. Their roots extend further than most plants, so dig a hole that provides ample room for potentially flourishing grapevines — about 12-24 inches deep. It will vary depending on the variety, but some can get as full as 10-15 feet. Grapes don’t produce if they are too wet, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be fertilized. Prioritize draining the soil reasonably and feeding it with compost or organic, nitrogen fertilizer to help the vine’s growth. Grapes don’t need as much fertilizer as other plants, so use them sparingly.
4. Get to Planting
The best time to plant your vines is in April or May. The rest of the year will consist of tying and retying growth on trellises, managing them in rows, and keeping an eye out for adverse influences. Bugs, animals, and birds can all pick away at growing grapes. Gardeners may feel tempted to use pesticides, but some grape varieties are delicate against them. So, use them cautiously or use organic alternatives, like kaolin clay sprays.
5. Take Care
Just because grapes take a long time to bear fruit doesn’t mean they are a sit-it-and-forget-it kind of plant. They will need maintenance in the meantime, which means pruning to encourage new growth. Old growth can stunt new development, extending or stopping growing times. Be judicious and unafraid during this process. It may feel like you’re trimming a lot, but that’s because you are. Grapevines grow fast, but most of it is unnecessary for long-term fruit-bearing. Picking should happen in fall.
Pruning also helps gardeners train the plant to grow in the desired direction and fashion. Careful manipulation of the vines can help them grow gracefully on trellises without bundling or tangling.
Occasional soil tests can help gardeners know about acidity, moisture, and soil health. Keeping tabs on this is crucial because spontaneous changes could reflect disease or invasive species interacting with plant health. Grapes vines are prone to powdery or downy mildew that can prevent fruit from ripening. Gardeners shouldn’t attempt to heal the plant — instead, discard it to save the rest of the vines from contracting any of the fungi.
Easy Backyard Grapes for the Household
Beginning any gardening operation may feel overwhelming, especially when information overload hits your face with any new potential interest or hobby. While the internet is teeming with information, growing backyard grapes isn’t as complex as navigating through internet tutorials with potentially contrarian information may seem.
The main idea to remember is that there may be mistakes, as plants are finicky and climate could be more predictable. Gardening is a skill that requires as much practice and patience as others, so keep expectations reasonable while the vines do their work.
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About the author
Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.