How to Grow and Maintain Grapevines

You heard it through the grapevine, now learn the basics of growing grapevines.

By Delilah Smittle

Grapes are easy to grow in any sunny, well-drained site. Buy plants in early spring, when they are just emerging from dormancy, and plant them in soil enriched with organic matter, such as leaf mold, compost, or well-aged manure. Unless you want abundant foliage, do not fertilize these plants. Train the vines where you want them to grow the first year and monitor them for problems.

Commercially grown grapes are prone to numerous diseases that cause leaves to discolor and wither, but these are seldom a problem in home landscapes. If your vines display disfiguring leaf spots, apply a sulfur-based fungicide registered for use on grapes, according to package directions. Japanese beetles may chew holes in the leaves, seriously weakening young plants. To eliminate these pests, apply the biological insecticide known as milky spore disease to nearby lawns in spring to control the grubs before they emerge as beetles. Deer may also browse grapes. Hang bars of a strong-smelling deodorant-formula bath soap among vines to deter them or apply commercial repellents as directed on the label.

Little pruning is needed the first year, but once vines are established they should be cut back in late winter, just before the buds swell in spring. If you are growing grapes as ornamental vines, prune them as needed to control their size and eliminate weak growth. Because the main trunk is attractive year-round, allow it to grow as tall as you like and cut back the lateral branches to only a few buds. Grapes can also be trimmed in summer, which encourages them to produce a pretty flush of new, light green leaves. To propagate, pin a trailing vine to the ground and cover it with soil. When rooted, sever the rooted vine and plant it as directed above.