WHAT TO PLANT
Grape vines are grown from cuttings, usually about 30 cms long, with two or three nodes from which the roots and the new leaves will emerge. If you already have a vine and want to grow a new one, simply take a cutting in autumn or early spring from the previous season’s growth and plant it in the ground. Make sure you put the orginal lower end of the cutting in the ground, not the end that pointed to the sky.
Or you may have to buy a vine already on its own roots from your local garden centre or from another supplier.
WHEN TO PLANT
A cutting already on its own roots can be planted at any time of the year. However, late spring after the danger of frost has passed, is the ideal time. A fresh cutting is best taken as late a possible in winter from the mother vine, before the sap starts to rise in it, and planted immediately into a prepared spot. If you prune sooner, in autumn or winter, cuttings can be laid down in a trench and covered with soil, with only their tips protruding, until they are ready for planting. Such unrooted cuttings can be planted in the early spring.
The vine will grow in different kinds of soil. These are the basic requirements:
- When planting in a confined space, like a garden patio or against a building, you need a minimum surface area of about 60×60 cms (2×2 ft) and a depth of about 30 -60 cms (1-2 ft) of soil. If necessary remove paving and dig out the ground below. Take out any rubble or hard packed clay and backfill with suitable soil.
- The soil should be free draining. The roots do not like to stand in water, except in the winter when the vine is dormant. Once established there is usually no need to water the grape vine at all.
- The vine grows best in neutral to alkaline soil with a pH level of between 6.0 and 7.5. If your soil is too acidic you can sweeten it with a little garden lime.
- The soil needs to carry a minimum of nutrients at the time of planting. A spadeful or two of well rotted manure dug into the soil will ensure the vine gets off to a good start. Once established grape vines grow well in soil of medium to poor fertility. The roots will penetrate down, even into clay, and seek out nutrients the plant needs. Do not overfeed a grape vine: rich soils will typically produce a vine with lots of leaf and very little fruit.
WHERE TO PLANT
The best location is one exposed to maximum sunshine and well sheltered from the wind. This can be in a garden or an allotment or right alongside a building. A south facing wall is an ideal spot. The wall shelters the vine and retains plenty of daytime heat. As it grows the vine can be supported by a trellis fixed to the wall. Vines will grow in pots on balconies and roof gardens, but care and attention is needed to prevent them from drying out.
FIRST GROWING SEASON
Allow the vine to grow freely in its first season, without removing any of its canes. Support the vine with a bamboo stake. Vigorous growth of leaves in the first season will also promote strong growth of the roots, and so ensure the plant gets off to a good start in the second season.
Prune the vine at the end of the season when it has lost all of its leaves. The vine should have produced at least one cane of pencil thickness or more. Cut back the vine to its strongest cane, retaining only well ripened wood (not green). Then cut this cane back to two, at the most three nodes. The new buds will appear next spring from these nodes and grow into canes.
Pruning the vine back so hard at the end of its first season is necessary to ensure that the new growth in the following season will be concentrated into two or three thick, strong canes. These canes will form a growing structure for the vine.