How To Grow Grapes In Your Backyard

Is it hard to grow grapes in your backyard?
How do you grow grapes in your backyard?

Grapes make an excellent back-yard crop. The vines do not take up much space, and since there are varieties that are well adapted to a wide range of climates, inexperienced gardeners should be able to produce a good crop.

Although they do not begin to produce as quickly as some other small fruits, total fruit bearing years of the plant is much longer than other garden fruits.

Contents show

When was the first grape grown?

Grapes have been a well-loved part of the human diet for thousands of years. Records of grape cultivation go back to at least 1000 BC, with references to grapes appearing along the Nile, the Persian deserts, Palestine, and the Mediterranean areas of Europe.

The Mediterranean is still a prime grape-growing area. Grapes are grown all over the world because they are among the most versatile and adaptable of all small fruits..

While raspberry and strawberry plants may have to be replaced every 3 to 5 years, grapes are resilient and if properly cared for, they live to a “ripe” old age. Some vineyards in the Western United States have plants that have grown and produced for more than a hundred years, while in other areas, they may be even older.

American and European grapes are the most common type of grape in Western United States. American grapes grow best in hot and dry climates, while European grapes grow best in cold, semitropical or Mediterranean climates.

Difference between European and American grapes

The skin slips easily off American grapes and they have soft flesh, seeds, and a distinctive, strong flavor. They are generally not as sweet as European grapes and therefore are not well suited to fresh eating. The best-known American grape is the Concord.

American grapes, such as the Concord, are generally hardier than their European counterparts and make excellent juice and jelly, but because of their seeds, they are not good for raisins.

European grapes are better adapted to milder areas, but they need hot climates to grow. They grow the best in the Western United States, where the climate is mild and warm. However, most grapes in California vineyards are from Europe and need long summers with lots of sun to grow.

These various kinds of grapes do not grow in colder climates because they freeze during the winter. Thompson Seedless is the most famous, but Tokay, Flame Seedless, and Emperor are also known.

Growing grapes at home

Homegrown grapes are not as large as those found in grocery stores, and you won’t find gibberellic acid at your local supermarket. Commercial growers use this growth hormone in their grape crops, because it promises larger cells and longer cells than those that grow naturally.

Grapes are not harmed by insect pests that do little damage to the plant during fruit development. Occasionally, the zig-zag two dimensional tube made of small leafs may be seen in between the leaves when the creature is attacking but this avoids the fruit and causes very little damage to the plant.

One sign of iron deficiency is pale yellow leaves. These are easy to spot on grapes that are overwatered – they have dark green veins, and their edges often dry up and die, leading to vines that grow slowly and yield poorly.

Video – How to grow grapes in your garden guide (22 mins)

Grape planting Instructions

Seeding Rate Per FootNot generally seeded
Seeds Per OunceGenerally planted with cuttings. Not generally seeded
Space Between Plants96″
Planting DepthPlant at same level as they were in the pot.
Plant HeightEdge
Plant TypesAmerican European
Favorite VarietiesAmerican: Blue-black: (used for juices and jellies) Concord (Considered the standard for juice and jellies) Buffalo (earlier than Concord, same uses.) Fredonia (Matures later than Buffalo but before Concord) Campbell Early. White Juice Canada Muscat Niagara European/American Crosses: Red Seedless Table Grapes Suffolk Red — Larger table grape Canadice — smaller than Suffolk White Seedless table grapes Himrod (similar to Thompson seedless but more hardy to Rocky Mountain winters) Interlaken (very early seedless table grape. Good for raisins) Lakemont ( makes good raisins) Black seedless table grapes Venus Glenora — not as hardy as Venus Black grapes with seeds Alden
Seed Viability (Years)Not generally planted from seed — generally planted from cuttings or grafted stock.
Seed GerminationNot typically planted from seed
Germination TimeNot typically planted from seed

How to plant Grapes

Place the grapes in an area that receives full exposure to the sun. If plants are planted on the southern exposure of a location and somewhat sheltered from cooling winds, they may produce ripe fruit even if the overall location is considered marginal.

When to plant grapes

Plant grape vines in the Spring as soon as the soil is dry enough. Roots should be replanted at the same level they were at in their pot, and a small hole should be prepared out first.

Clip the vines leaving only two buds near your plants. When positioning the plants in your garden, ensure there is an 8- to 10-foot spacing. When the plants become bigger, they will fill out and weeds will likely invade your garden.

Which soil is best for grapes?

Pulling weeds by the base or using a hoe ensures they don’t damage the plants with their roots.

Organic matter is necessary for clay type soils. The soil usually needs to be amended before planting as well. Mulch can provide even soil moisture levels.

When vines grow up, they have to have a place to be supported. Put in a trellis so that the grapes don’t break and then crush each other.

Grape vine care instructions

Grapes do well in a variety of soil types, but they grow best in soils with good drainage. Heavy qualities of clay will not drain water well and can cause the same levels of damage as overwatering. Grapes have deep roots and should not be watered too much because they won’t require it.

How to make your grapes grow – fertilizer

The grapes plant does not need much fertilizer and they can start fruit production after just a few years. It is best to feed it with moderate amounts of fertilizer to ensure that the plant grows quickly.

To care for your plants, you should add fertilizer with a ratio of 16-16-8. Do so when planting and again shortly after the second year.

Unless your soil test indicates the need for a different nutrient, only use nitrogen fertilizer for healthy fruit production during the first two years. Do not apply fertilizer unless the plant leaves are yellow or if the plant is producing poor cane growth. Fertilizing late in the ripening period will force excessive growth, which will spoil the fruit.

Grape plant care tips – water

Grapes have a deep rooted system, so they require little water- fertiliser than shallow rooted plants like the lawn and tomatoes in the garden. When the grapevine has been established for some time, it needs very little irrigation. To create the perfect environment for your vineyard, water them deeply and rarely.

Heavy clay soil tends to hold water around the roots, which can be detrimental to their growth as it can create a moist atmosphere. If you over-water your grapes, it can trigger iron chlorosis disease which causes yellowing of the leaves.

Grape Plant Development and Care

Light RequirementsFull sun
Temperature AdaptationsDepend on the variety. Not all grapes are hardy in cold winters. Varieties listed are adapted to cold weather. If planting in a warmer climate, consult your County Extension agent for recommended varieties.
Acidity (pH) ToleranceGrapes are tolerant to a wide range of pH conditions depending on variety.
Salinity (Ec) ToleranceDepends on variety
How PollinatedSelf-pollinating
Growth HabitsPerennial
How to grow grapes – care

Grapes need a structure for support. Either build a trellis with one low, one high wire or use an already existing structure such as lattice, or an arbor, to provide the support.

How to prune grape vines

Grape vines pruning guide
Grape vines need to be pruned after the first year

Support and pruning are optional the first summer but required after that. The best stem should be left and tied to a post to develop into a strong trunk the second year. The third year, select four side branches, two on each side of a trunk and train them along wires about 18 inches apart.

This technique should be done each year. In addition, prune the plant heavily to 90% of what it is from last year. The best way to do this is by cutting off a fourth of its growth and leave 12 buds per cane for it to grow up next year. It also needs 4 renewal spurs that are cut down to 1 or 2 buds while removing all the rest of the wood.

When to prune grape vines

Whoever prunes your grape vine will want to do it in the Spring before March or April. They should take off the old canes, but leave them grape vines so they can grow more grapes next year. Cutting or removing a grape vine’s buds can make it sad for weeks because that’s when the plant will rebuild nutrients for next year.

After the first two years after planting, stop fertilizing grapes as too much fertilizer stimulates plant growth instead of fruit production. Fruit thinning is not generally practiced with grapes.

Grape vine pruning basic guide PDF

How long does it take for grapes to germinate

Under ideal conditions (great soil, well watered and drained) some varieties can germinate after a couple of weeks, but other can take 6 weeks or longer.

Grape fertilizer recommendations

Common Grape Fertilizer Deficiencies

Iron deficiency leads to pale, small-leaved vines with green veins. This is most likely to happen in concord grape leaves. It is characterised by brown edges and yellowing of the leaves. In advanced stages, vines do not grow well and they fail to produce fruit or vegetables.

If your grapes use show signs of chlorosis, the first remedy is to reduce the frequency of watering. If this doesn’t fix it, you can apply Iron Sul or use Sequestrene 138 and specifically treat the soil at 1 pound per 100 feet of row. The treatment using Sequestrene 138 will last for about 2 years. Grapes don’t respond well to foliar sprays of iron.

Harvesting grapes

Planting to HarvestPerennial plant — produces each year. Time range depends on variety.
Average YieldDepends on variety
Recommended planting for a family of fiveOne or more vines of a given variety depending on preference and space availability.
Recommended UsesGrapes lend themselves to drying, juice, pies, wine, or fresh use in various dishes.

Grape harvesting recommendations

Harvest grapes when the right conditions are met. Taste is not a reliable marker of ripeness, as color may mislead you. You can cut entire clusters off if they never grow sweet or ripen.

Grapes, after being dried and made into raisins, should be allowed to stay on the vine for a longer time to get more sugar. Don’t leave them so long that they begin to fall off of the vine.

What’s the best way to store grapes

There are many ways to preserve fruit including canning, using clean or hot-pack methods.

Grapes diseases and control

Grape disease images and pests
How to identify and control grape vine diseases and pests?

Grape plant diseases pictures

Asteroid Mosaic

Affected Area: Leaf

Asteroid mosaic disease produces small, star-shaped spots in the leaves of affected vines. When the spots happen, it’s because tissue around the vein has torn and dry tissue is likely in the middle of them. Affected leaves will be asymmetrical.

Bitter Rot

Use finglicides to stop bitter rot
Bitter rot turns the grapes darker color and dry them out

Affected Area: Fruit

Berries typically get infected by fungus when they are picked. Light-colored berries often turn dark brown, while blue berries get rougher in appearance and have shiny spots where the fungus begins to grow. Berries that remain on the bush continue to dry out and become tougher, less sweet, and infected with fungus.

In order to prevent bitter rot, fungicide sprays are applied and resistant cultivars are used.

Black Rot

Affected Area: Leaf

Description: The main symptom on a leaf is small, tan, circular spots in the green covering of the leaf. Appearing in the spring and early summer, these may form a small whitish dot at first with depressions appearing soon after. These patches appear on the stem of both shoots and tendrils which become darkened quickly.

Black rot of muscadine grapes can be controlled with fungicides.

Bud Mite Strain

Affected Area: Leaf

Stunted leaves with prominent veins are characteristic of this condition.

Common symptoms include short basal internodes, scarred epidermis of new shoots, flattened shoots, dead terminal buds on new shoots, witches-broom growth of new shoots, zigzagged shoots, and dread overwintering buds.

Corky Bark

Affected Area: Leaf

Affected leaves on this cultivar become red or yellow in the autumn, and shoots do not elongate rapidly. However, if you observe the vine during the summer months, you may notice yellow leaves before they turn red, and swelling at the base of the canes. In addition, bark splitting may occur as well.

Control: An effective control is the use of propagation stocks from disease-free mother vines.

Downy Mildew

Affected Area: Leaf

The fungus infects the green parts of the vine, particularly leaves with symptoms of yellowish to reddish brown lesions limited by the veins and angular. Affected shoot tips thickening and curling up, eventually turning brown. The berries are highly susceptible to infection and turn grey when infected, covered in downy felt of fungus sporulation.

Fungicides are important for controlling diseases on susceptible crops. Using them in regions with high disease pressure is a great way to prevent these diseases from afflicting your plants.

Empoasca Leafhoppers

Leaf hoppers pests eat grape vine leaves
Use regular reccommended insecticides for Leaf Hoppers

Affected Area: Leaf

When grape leaves are assaulted by the potato leafhopper, they become spotted, wilted and curling.

Erythroneura Leafhoppers

Affected Area: Leaf

Description: Vine injury initially appears as a white speckling resembling virus infection. The speckling is initially limited to the veins and will spread onto the blade. Leaves may then dry up and drop.

European Red Mites

Affected Area: Leaf

They initially produce a bronze speckled appearance at the base of their leaves. The symptoms then spread over the entire leaf, resembling leafroll. Continued feeding by the pests may kill the leaves, leading to brown and fallen trees

False Spider Mites

Affected Area: Shoot, Rachis, Branches, Pedicels, Leaf, Stem,

When the vineyard is heavily infested with pine mites, it dries out and new shoots are blackened. The mites will then inhabit the rachis, branches, and pedicels of clusters where dehydration causes dark grooves uniting to form large lesions like those caused by grape Phomopsis cane and leaf spot.

The stems and berries may completely dry out. The foliage loses its green color; however a concentration of anthocyanins on the lamina of dark cultivars appears reddish.

Fanleaf Degeneration

Affected Area: Leaf

In the first syndrome, vines are severely distorted, asymmetrical and show acute dents. Veins may be deformed into bands and patches, which yellow in the spring. The second syndrome causes bright yellow discolorations as well as poor fruit set and low yield.

Control: The best forms of control are resistant cultivars and fumigation for nematode vectors.

Fleck

Affected Area: Leaf

Fleck disease is a plant disorder characterized by translucent yellow spots that appear in the veins of young and middle-aged leaves. Leaves with these spots are wrinkled and twisted, appearing as though they were dried up and pressed against an iron.

Grape Rust Mite

Grape pests - rust mite
Grape mites attacking the leaves

Affected Area: Internodes, Leaf, and Fruit

Buds are killed, leaves become dense and damaged fruit production is reduced. Damaging the leaves causes yellowing that resembles the same appearance of leaves slightly injured by spider mites.

Grapevine Yellows Diseases

Affected Area: Shoot and Leaf

The characteristic symptoms of this disease show up in the summer and the vine becomes downturned, with the shoots bending down. The leaves harden, rolling slightly abaxially and overlapping one another as a result. Though all parts were at first golden yellow, or mostly exposed to direct sunlight, they eventually turn red with black cultivars on all parts most exposed to the sun.

The best way to control these pests is with plants that are more resistant. To control insects, you should use insecticides during the hatching period.

Leaf Blotch

Affected Area: Leaf

Leaf lesions generally form after mid-season and appear to be small in size. Larger lesions at will display rings of different colors. These will develop within three or four days of the appearance of a lesion.

Leaf roll

Affected Area: Leaf

Affected plants are smaller than healthy ones. In the spring, the leaves on diseased and healthy vines are similar, but as the season progresses, diseased leaves turn yellowish or reddish. By late summer, a new set of symptoms begins – rolling of the leaves at base of the shoot. With delayed fruity ripening.

Control: The best form of control is to use disease-free vines.

Peach Rosette Mosaic Virus

 Peach Rosette Mosaic Virus attacks leaves
Deformed leaves attacked by the Peach Rosette Mosaic Virus (not grape)

Affected Area: Leaf and Vine

The infected vines usually show an umbrella-like growth habit, shortened and crooked shoot internodes, and deformed leaves.

The most efficient control is to have the soil tested for nematodes.

Treehoppers

Affected Area: Shoot and Leaf

The treehopper injures plants by inserting their eggs directly into the shoot. If a grape vine is fed on by the buffalo treehopper, it displays brownish strips with disrupted epidermis and cortex. The leaves peel up away from the damaged area.

Twospotted Spider Mite

Affected Area: Leaf and Fruit

Attacks cause yellow spots in the lower leaves. This degrades berry quality and maturity. Twospotted mites also attack berries, darkening the skin.

Willamette and Pacific Spider Mites

Affected Area: Leaf and Vine

Plants infected with Willamette and Pacific Spider Mites have yellow, cupped foliage, a bronze discoloration, and heavy webbing. These mites are particularly favored by dusty conditions in vineyards. In most cases of mite infestations in vineyards, Pacific Spider Mites are found on weaker vines or in water-stressed areas and will cause spotty injuries.

Leaf miners

Affected Area: Leaf

Description: These beetles feed on plants and leaves by exploding them in small, winding trails. The damage done is evidenced as large, light-colored blotches that gradually grow in size. They may eventually pupate with the food they are feeding on or underground. After 2 to 4 weeks, they emerge as a 1/4″ which fly that can do more harm.

Effective ways to deal with these pests is by controlling the amount of them on the grape plant by floating row covers and preventing them from getting to it. Within that task, you can also control host weeds in the area, such as lambs quarter, for a concentrated effect.

Powdery Mildew

Affected Area: Leaf

White powdery substance on leaves

Control: Not usually a serious problem and seldom requires the use of pesticides. Use surface or underground watering methods to avoid wetting leaves.

Grape diseases pdf

Other resources relating to growing grapes

Growing grapes in the home garden – University of Minnesota

How To Grow Grapes In Your Own Backyard – Minnetonka 

5 Easy Steps for Growing Grapes in Your Own Backyard

Clarisse Walters
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