How to Grow Grapes. With their lush foliage and prolific fruiting, [grape vines](http://www.ehow.com/how_12340769_types-grapes.html) (Vitis spp.) marry ornamental and useful traits into one versatile, low-maintenance plant. Grape vines rely on the right growing conditions and climate to thrive rather than intensive hands-on care, making them an...
With their lush foliage and prolific fruiting, grape vines (Vitis spp.) marry ornamental and useful traits into one versatile, low-maintenance plant. Grape vines rely on the right growing conditions and climate to thrive rather than intensive hands-on care, making them an ideal landscaping plant for many areas. However, they are extremely large and vigorous plants -- some exceeding 100 feet at maturity -- so they are best for larger gardens with plenty of space.
Cultivated, fruit-bearing grapes fall into three basic categories: the European grape (Vitis vinifera), American grape (Vitis lambrusca) and the muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia). Each type has different cultivars used specifically for wine or juice, as well as eating grapes. "Chardonnay" (Vitis vinifera "Chardonnay") is a common wine grape cultivar, while "Himrod" (Vitis lambrusca "Himrod") and "Thompson Seedless" (Vitis vinifera "Thompson Seedless") are eating grapes, the latter used for raisins. Muscadine grapes are multipurpose, suitable for eating, juicing and winemaking. All grapes share a similar growth habit and foliage shape, so virtually all of them can serve as ornamentals.
All grapes share similar growing conditions, but their climate requirements vary between species. The American grape tolerates cold more than other grape species and will perform well within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3A to 9B, while European grapes grows best in warm, sunny climates within USDA zones 5 to 9. The muscadine originated in the southeastern United States and will thrive in warm, humid areas within USDA zones 6 to 10.
Grape vines will live for more than 30 years and produce more than 15 pounds of fruit annually, if grown under the right conditions. Seven to eight hours of direct sun each day is vital, as is loose, fast-draining earth with at least 3 to 4 feet of soil above the bedrock or hard pan soil beneath. Grape vines adapt to a variety of soil types, but loamy soil with a pH between 5.8 and 6.5 provides the best moisture retention and acidity for nutrient uptake. Avoid shaded spots because a lack of sunlight reduces fruit yield and quality while increasing the risk of problems such as downy mildew and rot.
Grape vines possess an extensive root system and sprawling vines that require plenty of space and a strong vertical support to fit in most gardens. Space trellis-grown vines roughly 8 feet apart. If growing on an arbor or pergola, plant one for every 50 or more square-feet of space on the structure. Till the soil at the planting site, working a 2-inch layer of compost into the soil to improve its texture. Grape vines need southern exposure to ensure the right amount of sunlight reaches them, so install their trellis along the northern side of the bed or position their arbor away from shade trees.
Established grape vines tolerate some drought, but they will perform best if provided with regular irrigation, especially when young. Each vine needs roughly 1 inch of water every five to 10 days during the growing season, whether from rainfall or irrigation. Moisten the soil to a 12-inch depth at each watering and let the surface dry out completely between waterings to prevent root problems. A 2- to 3-inch layer of pine needle or other lightweight mulch will help reduce their water needs during hot weather, as well as discouraging competitive weed growth.
Grape vines seldom require fertilizer when grown in average garden soil. However, vines grown in soil with a confirmed lack of fertility or those exhibiting symptoms of a nutrient deficiency such as yellow foliage or slow growth do benefit from fertilizer. Apply 10-10-10 analysis in early spring before growth begins. In their first year, apply 1/4 cup per plant every six weeks until midsummer, then increase the amount to 1/2 cup in year two. Established vines with nutrient deficiencies or poor soil need 2 1/2 pounds of fertilizer applied once in spring before new growth emerges. Keep the fertilizer 6 inches from the base of the vine and always apply it to wet soil to prevent root burn.
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