Grow a grape vine

Spring 2009: first growth on my 2008 cuttings

Spring 2009: first growth on my 2008 cuttings

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.

 SUITABLE SOIL

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.

 FIRST PRUNING

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.

21 thoughts on “Grow a grape vine

  1. It’s so pretty when our grape vine climbs on and covers our small shed shingle roof. Is the vine bad for the shingles?

  2. I live in north carolina and was wanting to know if it is to late to cut clippings off my grapevines to start

    • It should work – its still early in the growing season. Cut a length of cane from your vine and plant it. Your original vine will bleed a little, so don’t make too many cuts. Your vine may have already opened its buds, so you should bury your cutting deep, covering up almost all of it, leaving only one bud/set of leaves showing above ground. You dion’t want the cutting to dry out.Be careful not to damage the uppermost bud/leaves. Put a little transparent cover around the bud/leaves above ground to protect from wind and from drying. You may want to do this inside in pots. A propagator that keeps the air moist is best; if you don’t have one then improvise.

  3. The vine in my garden is out of contro[ and bleeds badly where I cut it back .Can I do anything to prevent this? Will it kill it off or do I need to do anything else to it. New shoots are way up in a tree behind our garden.

  4. I am trying to determine how much watering needs to be done on my newly planted grape vines. I live in north east Texas, and am very excited about planting them. We have sandy soil and the plants do get sun for at least half of the day along an established fence line. I have read any were from water daily to not at all once established. I know mine are not established since I just planted them this spring, but how do I water them now until they are established, and last question how long does it usually taken them to establish? Does the watering change as the plants grow like taper off? Thank you for your help.

    • Hi Amy,
      It takes one growing season for vines to get established. You just need to check that they are not drying out – their leaves will wilt if they are. In that case give them a few litres of water each in the late afternoon or evening. The only way to know if they have enough water is to check them every day until you are sure they are managing on their own. Then let them be – their roots will have gone down deep enough to cope on their own.
      Marko

      • OK, I wanted to check because I have been researching them and several sites said you need to sock them for several hours so that the ground is good and saturated deeply. This was to be done every day and then taper off. We have had them in the ground now for a month and a half and three out off the four are looking good. One did not fair well from the beginning. So if I begin tapering off the watering should I start skipping a day then stretch that out until I reach the stage that you are suggesting? Thanks for the reply.

      • As you have had them in for a month and a half, I would not water them at all until you actually see them wilt. Unless they are in desert conditions (in which case you’ll need constant irrigation) they should be able to become independent seekers of water. The danger of watering them continually is that the roots will turn upwards because that’s where the water keeps coming from. You want to encourage them to seek water below themselves, not above.

    • That’s a lot of water. It depends on how quickly the water drains away in the soil, when in the year it rains, how much it contributes to humidity in the atmosphere. Does anyone else in your region grow grapes?

      • Rainfall is during June to August and September to November. The soil drains the water moderately fast. No one I know grows grapes. The usual stuff grown are mangoes bananas coconuts etc. The humidity is around 70-80% avg around the year.

  5. I’ve had a grapevine under my pagola for 7 years and it’s always been fine. But this I fixed Polycarb roof on top of it and all the leaves under it had burnt and the rest at coming off.
    Can you help

  6. I’m planning to really start germinating grapevine from seeds, how long do you think I should wait until they produce fruits?

    It would be helpful if you added it here. :)

    • I have never tried propagating vines from seeds, but I have seen one variety do so on its own from fruit left lying around on the ground. The new vines grow up at the normal rate – so as long as they are in good soil they’ll mature to produce fruit in 3-4 years in our northern climate.

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