Grapes: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties

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It's a wonder more gardeners don't plant grapevines. Just 2 years after planting, you can be sampling your own grapes; in 3 years, you can be harvesting up to 15 pounds of grapes from each vine -- plenty for eating and making jellies, juice, or wine.

About grapes
Not only do grapes produce an edible crop, the vines are also ornamental. Train your grapevines over an arbor to create an attractive, and productive, garden focal point.

Grapes require a long, frost-free growing season. Choose a variety that is recommended for your climate. Grapes start to bear 2 years after 1-year-old vines are planted. Established vines will yield up to 15 pounds of grapes per year, 30 to 40 pounds from a muscadine.

Choosing a site to grow grapes
Select a site with deep, well-drained, loose soil in full sun. Set up a trellis system before planting.

How to harvest grapes
Grapes will only ripen on the vine. As they ripen, the sugar content rises to about 20 percent. Harvest table grapes when the flavor is right; harvest wine grapes when they reach the appropriate sugar content.

Planting Instructions
Plant grapes in the spring. Space vines 6 to 10 feet apart (16 feet for muscadines). For each vine, dig a planting hole 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide. Fill with 4 inches of topsoil. Trim off broken roots and set the vine into the hole slightly deeper than it grew in the nursery. Cover the roots with 6 inches of soil and tamp down. Fill with the remaining soil, but don't tamp this down.

Ongoing Care
Prune the top back to two or three buds at planting time. Prune annually when the vines are dormant according to the training system you select. Do not fertilize unless the soil is very poor or the plants show poor foliage color or signs of nutrient deficiencies. Cultivate shallowly around the base of plants to control weeds. Drape netting over vines to prevent birds from destroying your harvest.

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