Grapevine Care Guide

Grapevines thrive in warm, sunny soil that drains easily. They can be trained to grow over pergolas, along fences, or walls. They are attractive and productive.

Dwarf Grapevine – Vitis Pixie – Pinot Noir

Choosing a Grapevine to Plant

There are two primary types of grapes: wine grapes and dessert grapes. However, some varieties may be suitable for both. Dessert grapes are typically grown in a greenhouse in the UK because they are sweeter and require warmer temperatures to ripen properly. In warmer parts of the UK, wine grapes can be grown outdoors, but they do better under glass.

There are a variety of white, red, or black fruits available within each category—seeded or unseeded, with varying flavours, sweetness levels, hardiness, and disease resistance. Select a variety that is suitable for your soil and climate with care. Grapevines are typically sold as young plants in containers.

Planting

Where to Plant Grapevines:

In most of southern Britain, they can be grown outdoors. In northern regions, select cultivars that flower later. Every grapevine should be planted at the base of a strong support system, usually, horizontal wires attached to a wall or fence or strong posts at least 2 meters tall. The distance between the wires should be about 30 cm.

In warmer regions of the United Kingdom, wine grapes can be grown outdoors in a warm, sunny location, for example against a south- or southwest-facing wall or fence. From early spring on, they thrive in temperatures around 16°C. Avoid frost pockets because frost can harm young spring shoots.

They can be grown in any soil as long as it drains well. Over chalk, sandy gravel is ideal. By incorporating grit and well-rotted organic matter, you can improve drainage on heavy soils. If necessary, set up a drainage system. When planting a row of vines, a south- or southwest-facing slope is ideal, and the rows should run north to south. A pH of 6.5 to 6.8 is required, so lime acid soils are used to raise their pH.

In most of the UK, dessert grapes must be grown in a greenhouse to ripen properly; however, some varieties can be grown outdoors in very warm, sheltered locations. They can be planted in a border of the greenhouse or just outside the greenhouse with the trunk and stems trained inside for growth under glass. It is easier to feed and manage vines that are grown this way because they rarely require additional watering.

During the growing season, they can also be planted in a large container kept in a greenhouse or conservatory. The grapevine requires a period of cold to enter dormancy, so they should be moved outside in the winter. Standards should be trained on potted vines with a rounded head and a single main stem, like a lollipop.

How to Plant Outside

Grapevines can be planted outdoors when they are dormant, between October and March, as long as the ground is not frozen or covered in water. It’s best to plant in March in areas with cold winters. To prevent frost damage, the vine stems should be thicker than a pencil.

Dig over the soil, removing weeds and breaking up any compaction. Include a general-purpose fertiliser rated at 100 grams per square meter or yard in addition to homemade compost or well-rotted manure.

Before adding soil, remove the roots and distribute them evenly throughout the planting hole. Position the plant at least 12 centimetres away from the base when planting against a wall or fence. If you intend to plant multiple, space them 1.2 meters apart. When planting in open ground, space the plants 1.5–1.8m apart in rows along a support system of wires.

After planting, mulch with well-rotted organic matter or chipped bark to protect the lower buds from frost. To prevent the stem from rotting, remove the mulch from around it in the spring.

How to Plant Grapevines in a Container

It is possible to plant grapevines in large containers. Choose a pot that is 30 to 38 centimetres wide and deep, and compost made from soil, like John Innes No. 3, should be used. Grapevines in pots should be grown in a greenhouse or conservatory before being moved outside during the winter to get enough cold to go into dormancy. On a single upright stem with a rounded top, similar to a lollipop, they ought to be trained as standards.

How to Plant Grapevines in a Greenhouse

Grapevines are beautiful plants that can be trained inside a greenhouse or conservatory, but they need a lot of space. For a small greenhouse, one vine is sufficient; for a larger greenhouse, space each vine 1 meter apart.

When the roots of a greenhouse grapevine are planted outside and the vine is trained into the greenhouse through a gap close to ground level, the vine will grow best. However, the vine can be planted directly into the greenhouse border if this is not possible; but this will require additional watering.

Dig the ground twice, then apply a light coating of garden compost or well-rotted manure and 90 grams of John Innes base fertiliser per square meter. Dig a hole 75 to 90 centimetres deep and cover the base with 15 centimetres of brick rubble, gravel, or another material that drains water if the soil is wet.

When planting inside, plant the grapevine opposite the door so that the stems can be trained to run parallel to the roof ridge and in the direction of the door along the greenhouse’s side.

Because the vine can be cut back without bleeding, planting in November or December is best. The same depth that the vines were in the pot should be used for planting. Tease the roots out gently until they are evenly distributed in the planting hole.

Care

Watering

During the growing season, regularly water newly planted grapevines to help them settle in. Established vines are fairly drought-tolerant, but if the roots are too dry, they can get the fungal disease powdery mildew. During the growing season, especially during dry spells in the spring and summer, give your plants a thorough watering every seven to ten days to prevent this.

When compared to vines that have their roots outside, greenhouse vines need to be watered more frequently.

Mulching

In the spring, mulching the base of outdoor vines with gravel or stone can be beneficial. Apply in a layer 5–7.5 cm deep when the soil is moist. While recycled slate or black gravel absorbs sunlight and warms the soil, white gravel reflects light upward into the grapevine canopy. The mulch will likewise stifle weeds.

Just before spring growth begins, mulch the rooting area of greenhouse vines with well-rotted manure. Then, in the summer, it’s a good idea to cover the edges of the greenhouse with straw mulch to keep the air dry. The pollination of the flowers and subsequent fruit sets will be aided by this.

Feeding

Feed grapevines a general fertiliser with a high potassium content, like Vitax Q4, just before growth begins in the early spring. Distribute half a handful around the base for every yard or square meter. Alternately, apply 120g of dried blood per square meter or yard of John Innes base fertiliser to the root area. Vine plants benefit from adding 30 grams of dried blood per square meter or yard during the growing season.

Begin feeding greenhouse or dessert grapes with a high-potassium liquid fertiliser, like tomato feed, every two to three weeks a month after spring growth begins. Feed the vine every week once it has reached the full leaf stage. Stop feeding when the grapes begin to ripen and turn a deep red, as continuing to feed them during this time could ruin the flavour.

Harvesting

Depending on the variety and the weather, grapes ripen from late summer to late autumn.

When dessert grapes feel soft and taste sweet, they are ready to be picked. White grapes’ skin frequently becomes significantly thinner and shifts from deep green to translucent yellow. However, tasting grapes is the best way to determine when they are ripe; pick them when they are at their sweetest.

With the stalk still attached, cut the entire bunch.

After harvest, dessert grapes should be consumed as soon as possible; however, if kept in the refrigerator, they will keep for approximately two weeks.

Wine grapes can be consumed fresh, but they taste better when pulped and turned into wine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need several grapevines near eachother to fruit?

“Because most grapes pollinate themselves, only one vine is required to produce fruit. To produce fruit, grapes that require a pollinator require a nearby grapevine of another variety,” says Chris Bonnett, a gardening expert for The Express.

Do you have to prune back grapevines every year?

“Yes. The plants will produce a lot of foliage that will become shade if you don’t prune them enough. The plant’s capacity to produce fruit buds for the following year is hampered as a result,” says Chris Bonnett, a gardening expert for The Express.

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Updated on April 12, 2023

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