Growing Grapes

(Question)

Last year I moved into a home with two grape vines in the back yard. I am looking for information and resources on how to care for them. Preferably someone who could provide some hands on instruction.

(Answer)


Congratulations on your home purchase and isn’t it wonderful to inherit grapevines!   In preparing my response, I assumed you reside in the greater Toronto area and that the vines are mature ( at least 3 years old  vines younger than 3 years do not produce fruit) and have been affixed to a trellis or some other structure.

The two most common vines are Vitis vinifera, a source for wine and table grapes as well as raisins and Vitis labrusca mainly used for fresh fruit, juice and jellies.  Labrusca are more winter hardy.

The care required is the same for either vine.  Most grape vines are self-pollinating.

If you did not prune your grapevine last fall, you should do so while it is still dormant.

Grape vines require heavy pruning annually. The bulk (90-95%)  of the previous season’s growth should be removed, leaving only four to six healthy pencil width canes. Remove weak or very heavy thick canes.   The canes selected should originate from the trunk or as close to it as possible.  Home gardeners are often wary of heavy pruning but your vines will be healthier if they receive a heavy pruning annually.

More information can be found here:

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/info_grapeprod.htm#anchor38761

Once they start producing fruit, annual pruning is needed to maintain the balance between vegetative growth and fruit production. If grapevines produce too much fruit in one year, they will not produce a good crop next year and could suffer winter damage. If grapevines produce too little fruit one year, they will produce too many shoots and leaves that year.  It is very important to properly prune your grapevines every year.

On average a grape vine will require 5 years before it reaches full fruit production.

Another website you may find useful is from the University of Oregon  which goes into detail about other aspects of growing grapes.

If you are looking for someone to give you some hands on help, you may find your neighbours have some experience in growing grapes.  The Toronto Master Gardeners, do not offer individual hands on service to residents in their gardens.

Good luck with your grapes.