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Planting Grape

Planning

  • Choose a variety that is recommended for your climate. Grapes require a long, frost-free growing season.
  • Grapes start to bear 2 years after 1-year-old vines are planted. Established vines will yield up to 15 pounds of grapes per year, 30 to 40 pounds from amuscadine.
  • Plant grapes in the spring.

Preparation

  • Select a site with deep, well-drained, loose soil in full sun.
  • Set up a trellis system before planting.

Planting

  • Space vines 6 to 10 feet apart (16 feet for muscadines).
  • For each vine, dig a planting hole 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide. Fill with 4 inches of topsoil. Trim off broken roots and set the vine into the hole slightly deeper than it grew in the nursery.
  • Cover the roots with 6 inches of soil and tamp down. Fill with the remaining soil, but don’t tamp this down.

Care

  • Prune the top back to two or three buds at planting time and follow the first-year training steps.
  • Prune annually when the vines are dormant according to the training system you select.
  • Do not fertilize unless the soil is very poor or the plants show poor foliage color or signs of nutrient deficiencies.
  • Cultivate shallowly around the base of plants to control weeds.
  • Drape netting over vines to prevent birds from destroying your harvest.
  • See our article Fruit Pests and Diseases for controls of common grape pests such as aphid, scale, anthracnose, and black rot.

Harvesting

  • Grapes will only ripen on the vine. As they ripen, the sugar content rises to about 20 percent.
  • Harvest table grapes when the flavor is right; harvest wine grapes when they reach the appropriate sugar content.

The fall before you plant, mark the location for your vines. Get rid of all weeds, especially perennial ones, as your vines can easily survive 30 years or more in the same location. Grapes don’t require superior soil, but good drainage is a must. Although you won’t start training the vines until the second year, set up the trellis system before spring planting so you don’t damage the roots later.

Planting

In the spring, work the soil again and plant the vines 6 to 10 feet apart. (Double this spacing for muscadines.) For each vine, dig a hole 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide to accommodate the roots. Shovel in a 4-inch layer of topsoil. Then prune the top of your grapevine back to two or three buds and trim off any broken roots or roots too long to fit into the hole without crowding. Set the vine into the hole, slightly deeper than it was grown in the nursery, and spread its roots. Cover the roots with 6 inches of topsoil, keeping the buds above the soil line. Tamp down the soil, then fill the remainder of the hole with topsoil but don’t tamp it down. Water the new plants well. Although grapevines are known to be drought tolerant, they need plenty of water right after planting so roots can get established.