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How to grow Grapes

Grapes Growing Guide

Whether you’re making your own juice, raisins or wine from them, or more likely just enjoying them as they are, there are few crops as satisfying to produce as home grown grapes.

The hanging clusters of fruit grow on deciduous climbing vines which also produce mid-green, maple-like leaves (these often take on rich and colourful hues before falling in the autumn) and clusters of yellow-green flowers outdoors in May, or a little earlier under glass. Bunches of grapes are notoriously very expensive to buy in the shops and, for this reason, its well worth growing a grapevine at home. Fortunately, there are a wide range of varieties that can either be raised in a greenhouse, outdoors or both.

Furthermore, the vines crop reliably well and take up relatively little space when they are pruned and trained properly. If you want to have a go at growing grapes, then now is the perfect time to start, as they are quite happy to be planted in winter.

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Growing Grapes month-by-month

January

Plant new grapevines but, for outdoor varieties, only do this in mild weather and when the soil conditions are suitable. In March, also give established grapevines a feed, and add a mulch – but don't let it touch the plants' stems.

February

Plant new grapevines but, for outdoor varieties, only do this in mild weather and when the soil conditions are suitable. In March, also give established grapevines a feed, and add a mulch – but don't let it touch the plants' stems.

March

Plant new grapevines but, for outdoor varieties, only do this in mild weather and when the soil conditions are suitable. In March, also give established grapevines a feed, and add a mulch – but don't let it touch the plants' stems.

April

In dry weather, water grapevines and remove all weeds. On hot days, damp down and ventilate the greenhouse.

May

Hand-pollinate the flowers of greenhouse-grown grapevines using a soft artists' paintbrush and apply greenhouse shading paint to the glass. In dry weather, water grapevines and remove all weeds. Damp down and ventilate the greenhouse.

June

Apply greenhouse shading paint to the glass. In spells of dry weather, water grapevines and remove all weeds. Keep damping down and ventilating the greenhouse.

July

In dry weather, water grapevines and remove all weeds. Damp down and ventilate the greenhouse. Give grapevines a liquid feed. Thin the fruits in each bunch of grapes. In August also harvest the ripe fruits and store some for future use, and protect outdoor grapes from birds using netting.

August

In dry weather, water grapevines and remove all weeds. Damp down and ventilate the greenhouse. Give grapevines a liquid feed. Thin the fruits in each bunch of grapes. In August also harvest the ripe fruits and store some for future use, and protect outdoor grapes from birds by using netting.

Must do this month!
September

Continue to harvest the ripe fruits and store some for future use. Protect outdoor grapes from birds using netting. In autumn you can start to plant new grapevines.

October

Continue to harvest the ripe fruits and store some for future use. Protect outdoor grapes from birds using netting. In autumn you can start to plant new grapevines.

November

Plant new grapevines. Prune established grapevines and clean the greenhouse glass to let more light in.

December

Plant new grapevines but, for outdoor varieties, only do this in mild weather and when the soil conditions are suitable. Prune any established grapevines.

Caring for your Grapes plants + problems

Once established, outdoor and greenhouse grapevines should be kept lightly moist throughout winter. To ensure maximum light exposure in the growing season, clean the glass behind the stems of greenhouse varieties. Also try to leave the structure unheated through the winter months and then maintain a temperature of 16–21°C in spring and summer by damping down and ventilating the greenhouse.

In early spring, feed all grapes with organic Growmore (or a similar multipurpose fertiliser) and apply a 5cm-thick mulch of well-rotted compost around the base of the plants – this will help to prevent weed growth and conserve moisture in the soil. In the late spring, it’s a good idea to lightly shake the stems of greenhouse grapevines at midday or lightly dust the flowers using a soft artists’ paint brush – this helps to ensure flower pollination and a good crop of fruits. In spring and summer, grapevines also need plenty of water during dry or warm conditions and all weeds should be removed. In the early summer, don’t forget to apply greenhouse shading paint to the glass as this will prevent the leaves and fruits being damaged by sun scorch. A liquid feed with a high-potash fertiliser is beneficial from the moment the fruits form until they show colour.

However, always avoid overwatering (and stop feeding) when the fruits are maturing and ripening or they may split. On outdoor grapevines, bird protection is very important when the grapes begin to ripen – simply drape netting over the plants.

How to harvest Grapes

Grapes are usually ready for picking from late summer to late autumn and the best test for ripeness is taste.

The ideal way to harvest grapes for wine making is to simply sever the stalk an inch or so above each bunch of fruits. For dessert varieties, the main stem should be cut on each side of the bunch’s stalk to create a short woody handle – prune the stem so that it is 10cm in length on one side of the stalk and 20cm in length on the other. This will allow the fruits to be stored for several months.

Fill some clean bottles with water, place in a wine rack in a cool, dull room and then insert the longest end of a woody stem (also called a handle) into each bottle, so the bunch of grapes hangs downwards. After harvesting, reduce the amount of watering until the vine becomes dormant again.

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