Grape Vine Care: Everything You Need to Know - Minneopa Orchards (2023)

Growing grapes at home is a fulfilling and delicious endeavor, but it’s not the easiest of tasks! The most important element to growing grape vines is intentional and informed grape vine care for an extended period of time—you must be ready for a long-term commitment! Healthy grape vines that are planted, trained, pruned, and nurtured in the right way can continue to produce juicy grapes for decades after about a three-year settlement period.

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Excited to get started with your grape-growing adventure? Then read on to learn all about grape vine care.

Planting Grape Vines

The first step towards proper grape vine care is to conduct a soil test to see what your earth’s pH situation is way before you plan on planting your grape vines. The pH level should be between 5.0 and 6.5, depending on the grape variety. If it is not within that range, use soil amendments to bring it back within that range. Whether or not the pH is correct, it is also advised that you add plenty of organic matter during the autumn before your planting season to properly prep the soil.

The location of the soil you’ve just tested should receive full sunlight, because grape vines are warm-loving plants and require sunlight to produce the sugar we love so much in grapes.

Next, you will choose the right grape variety that will thrive best in your geographic location, keeping in mind the pH level of your soil. Staff at nurseries or other local experts should be able to point you to the right variety. Once you’ve decided on a variety, you willorder bare root dormant grape plants(also called rooted cuttings) to arrive early in the spring.

(Video) How to Prune Grape Vines

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You’ll want to plant the bare roots as soon as possible once receiving them. If you can’t plant them immediately, keep them moist and in your refrigerator. Right before planting them, you you can rehydrate the bare roots by soaking them in water for eight to 12 hours. If any of the roots seem broken or damaged, feel free to cut them off.

Next, come early spring (after the last winter frost) dig a large and deep hole in order to bury the bare roots beneath about five inches of soil, and so that the roots have plenty of room to grow. If you’re planting more than one bare root, plant them at least eight feet away from each other to practice propper grape vine care. If you live in a mild climate, consider planting the rows of grape vines with a north-south orientation, which helps maximize how much sunlight they receive. If instead you live in a very hot climate, a northeast-southeast orientation will help avoid sunburns.

Keep in mind that grape vines are prone to become infected with fungal diseases, for which the best prevention is air circulation. For this reason, it is encouraged to plant grape vines on sloped ground.

Supporting Grape Vines

As you know, grape vines need significant support systems, but luckily you don’t need to immediately decide what support and training system to go with. For now, all you need for early grape vine care is to plant a stake that will stand about five feet above the soil to function as the backbone of your young grapevine. You should brace the first canes that grow from the rootstock against the stake by tying them loosely with twine or a soft rope.

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Watering Grape Vines

During the first year of life of your grape vines, you should water them around one inch a week to help establish its roots. Direct the water into the soil at the base of the plant (as opposed to splashing it on the foliage) and be careful not to water too much. After the first year, the grape vines won’t need much watering.

Fertilizing Grape Vines

The amount of fertilizer that grapes depends on several different factors, and thus it’s difficult to provide accurate advice. In general, you should only apply 10-10-10 fertilizer if and when it seems like your grape vines need it, in early spring. Resist the instinct to over fertilize, because this will cause your grapes to grow more foliage than produce fruit.

Check out our top five grape vine fertilizers.

Weeding Grape Vines

While you should do some serious weeding if necessary even before planting your root cuttings, you should also maintain the soil around grape vines to be weed-free by regularly hand weeding in your grape vine care. Grape vines are sensitive to any chemicals used in gardening, so you should avoid week killers.

Pruning Grape Vines

Pruning plants is extremely important in their overall care, especially in grape vine care, because it stimulates new growth and helps to train the plant into the growing habit that you prefer. That is why pruning is done in late winter when the grape vine is dormant, so that the new growth is ready to thrive in the not-so-distant spring.

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The first winter of pruning is perhaps the most important one in grape vine care, because it establishes said growing habit. Since the grape vine is still young, you’ll want to prune down to the healthiest cane, and prune that cane down to the healthiest two or three buds. Once you’ve trained your grape vines (see below) you’ll want to prune your grape vines down to two to three buds per cordon every winter.

If you live in a geographic area with a short growing period and chillier temperatures, you can also consider pruning away foliage to help expose grape clusters to more much needed sunlight.

Check out our more detailed guidelines for how to prune grape vines.

Training Grape Vines

Any and all grape varieties necessitate a support system in their grape vine care, or else they will grow into a mess of moist vines all over the ground, and be prone to all sorts of diseases and pests.

As mentioned earlier, the only sort of support your grape vines will need the first year is a stake that sticks out about five feet above the soil. Moving forward, however, you’ll need to decide on a training system that will dictate the growth habit of your grape.

You can choose from the high cordon training system, the guyot training system, fan training system, the Scott Henry training system, and more.

Learn how to train grape vines with the high cordon training system, which is a versatile and great option for home grape vine care.

Managing Diseases, Pests, and Wildlife

Unfortunately, animals and pests love sweet grapes as much as humans do, especially birds. Using nets is a great way to keep the winged animals away from your fruit production. You can net your grapes when they begin to ripen.

Other animals that might be attracted to the grapes (for food and for places to nest) include squirrels, rabbits, foxes, and more: netting is a great repellant for all of them. Remove rotting, unharvested fruit quickly so as not to attract other less pleasant bugs.

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Unfortunately, grape vines are also susceptible to a number of viral, fungal, and bacterial diseases, most of which don’t have cures. Most of the times, if you find wide-spread diseases in your crop, the only way forward is to dig them out, destroy them, and then replant from scratch

That means that the only way to protect yourself from grape vine diseases is by planting with certified disease-free materials from a trusted nursery and applying fungicide preventatively. Because some fungi hibernate in leaf piles during the winter (and then release spores in the spring that infect your plants through water and air contamination) you should make sure to rake them out and keep the soil clear throughout the colder months.

Now You Know All About Grape Vine Care

I hope this post has inspired you to practice diligent and well-informed grape vine care to help your grape vines thrive and produce the tastiest grapes for your every grape need. Grape vine care is certainly a long-term commitment, but one that provides long-term satisfaction, too.

Excited for more grape content? Next,check out my grape vine pagefor more growing tips, care guides, recipes, and more!


How do you take care of a grape vine plant? ›

Apply water only to the root zone. Avoid getting grape foliage wet as this can encourage many grape diseases. Reduce watering young vines in the fall to encourage the plant to harden-off its canes to prepare for winter. Older vines seldom need any watering unless on sandy or other very well drained soils.

What happens if you don't prune grape vines? ›

The disadvantage of not pruning enough is that the plants produce a lot of foliage that becomes shade. This limits the plant's ability to set fruit buds for the following year. So, you have a lot of foliage growth, and then it just becomes a jungle. This is a grape plant that has been properly pruned.

When should grapevines be pruned? ›

Grapevines are normally considered to be mature and fully productive in year three. Dormant pruning should be completed starting in late February through March. One-year-old wood (the previous summer's growth) should be pruned back to three to five nodes per spur.

How do you protect grape vines in the winter? ›

In fall, after leaves drop and vines are dormant, prune the vines leaving a few extra buds in case of cold damage. Release the vines and gently bend to lie on the ground. Completely bury the vines with dirt, straw, snow. Soil is best if rodents are a problem.

What is the best fertilizer for grapes? ›

Hydrated Lime is the best fertilizer for grapes if you want to increase the soil pH quickly. Dolomitic lime also works well but it will take much longer. Bonide Hydrated Lime works to raise soil pH by neutralizing acidic soil.

Should I cut the leaves off my grape vine? ›

If there is too much leaf cover for good air circulation and sunlight, trim off leaves, or remove other shoots if they do not have fruit clusters. If you have excess shoots leaning over the top of your trellis, cut them to be about 6 to 8 inches long.

Should I mulch under my grape vines? ›

In answer to your question, mulch is not recommended for grapevines in general, as grapes require extremely well drained soil and mulch tends to retain moisture and keeps the soil cool. Keeping the surface clear allows the ground temperature to increase and encourages growth of the vine.

How do you increase grape yield? ›

Give Grapes a chance to grow and cluster to get more nutrients and water per Grape plant. Remove the lower half of the cluster, leaving four to five side branches near the top. Since these branches grow side by side with the main stem of the cluster, they can bear fruit without crowding.

Can I prune my grape vine in October? ›

The main pruning time is early winter (late November or December). Pruning later can cause the vine to bleed sap, weakening the plant. Training and pinching out of new shoots, as well as thinning of fruits, is carried out in spring and summer.

How many buds do you leave on a grape vine? ›

For wine grapes, leave about 20 to 30 buds per plant. In table grapes, leave 50 to 80 buds per plant. Leave a one- or two-bud spur cane near the fruiting cane with one or two buds each. These "renewal spurs" will produce the fruiting canes for the following year and thus maintain fruiting close to the trunk.

Are coffee grounds good for my grape vines? ›

Used coffee grounds are beneficial to grapes and other plants, but as with most fertilizers they should be used carefully. Applying too much coffee ground material can make the soil too acidic, hindering grapevine growth instead of helping it.

What temperature kills grape vines? ›

There is one threat, however that has the potential to destroy a crop of grapes before it even begins — the threat of frost. Frost damage happens when temperatures drop below 32 °F (0 °C) after green growing tissue has appeared from a bud.

What temperature kills grape buds? ›

By a process known as supercooling, cellular mechanisms within the bud maintain water in liquid state down to around minus 4 to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the species. Beyond a certain low-temperature threshold, ice forms inside the cells, cellular functions cease and the bud dies.

How cold is too cold for grape vines? ›

Since every variety responds differently to cold, this should be used only as a rough guideline. Cabernet Sauvignon at first swell sustained no damage down to 25°F. Merlot at full swell showed slight damage to the buds, phloem, and xylem at 25°F. More serious damage to the phloem and xylem occurred at 23°F.

Can you use Miracle Grow on grapevines? ›

Lastly, it's essential to fertilize your grapevines routinely. Miracle-Gro can provide the vines with a short burst of nutrients, but it's vital to use a balanced fertilizer all season to ensure they get what they need.

What is the best pesticide for grapes? ›

Oryzalintrifluralin, simazine, norflurazon, diuron, oxyfluorfen, isoxaben and pendimethalin are among the best pre-emergence weed killers for grapevines. Glyphosate, carfentrazone and glufosinate are broader spectrum weed killers that you can use throughout the year, Purdue explained.

What do farmers spray on grapes? ›

Roundup, a herbicide, is widely used on wine grapes in conventional farming.

Do grape vine roots go deep? ›

While most 'fine roots' that absorb water and nutrients are concentrated in the top meter of soil, a portion of the roots can grow to great depths (up to 30 m), and extend out several meters from the base of the vine.

Is it better to leave grapes on the stem or take them off? ›

Do grapes last longer if stored on the stem? Short answer: Yes. Grapes spoil faster once they're plucked off the stem. This is because removing the stem leaves a hole in the grape's skin.

What to spray grape leaves with? ›

Dormant sprays of lime sulfur and Bordeaux mixture, copper and lime, are commonly applied. When applying these sprays for the first time, follow all the label directions. It may be wise to treat a smaller area or use lesser rates until you feel confident avoiding any phytotoxicity issues.

What type of mulch is best for grape vines? ›

Straw mulch from round bales is commonly used in the East to add organic matter and conserve moisture, particularly in higher production-oriented Concord and hybrid wine grape vineyards.

How do you winterize grape plants? ›

In cold climates, grapevines are generally covered with about 8 inches (20.5 cm.) of mounded soil. Extremely cold regions should also add some insulating mulch such as straw or shredded cornstalks (which are more water-resistant). The addition of snow in these areas provides adequate insulation for protecting vines.

Is pine bark mulch OK for grape vines? ›

Mulch the grapevine with pine bark, compost or pebbles to prevent excessive water evaporation from the soil and to protect roots from temperature fluctuations. This will also help your grapevine to look great, too!

What animals eat grapes off the vine? ›

The dark fruit produced by grape vines is an important source of food for upland gamebirds and many species of songbirds. Several mammals that consume the fruit include: black bear, gray fox, opossum, raccoon, striped skunk, spotted prairie skunk, and fox squirrel.

Do grapevines like Epsom salt? ›

Epsom salt can be beneficial for a grapevine (Vitis spp.) if the soil has a magnesium deficiency. But simply using the compound as generic fertilizer can cause problems for your grape.

Why do they put white plastic over grape vines? ›

Integrated Packaging's grape covers protect vines and berries from hail, rain, frost, sunburn and wind. The covers provide good light transmission and UV protection creating ideal growing conditions.

How do you make grapes bigger and sweeter? ›

ANSWER: In home gardens it is possible to obtain larger, sweeter fruit on some grape varieties by removing the lower one-third to one-half of each cluster as soon as grapes begin forming in spring.

What is the hardest grape to grow? ›

Being noted as one of the most difficult grapes to grow, the Pinot noir grape possesses a rather thin skin that makes it susceptible to infections, disease, and deterioration from a harsh terrior.

How do you make grapes sweeter on the vine? ›

Keep them close to apples or bananas

The ethylene of these two fruits, i.e. the action of the gaseous plant hormone typical of some varieties that continue to ripen even after harvesting, will certainly have a positive influence on your sour grapes: So – within a few days, they'll be ripe!

Do grape plants come back every year? ›

The annual growth cycle of grapevines is the process that takes place in the vineyard each year, beginning with bud break in the spring and culminating in leaf fall in autumn followed by winter dormancy.

Do grape plants grow back every year? ›

Grapevines produce fruit on new growth each year. Because healthy vines grow several feet per year and would naturally set far more fruit than they can ripen, they must be pruned each year when they are dormant to keep the vines producing fruit and to keep them from taking over an ever increasing space.

Can grape vines survive winter? ›

Usually grape vine trunks are more cold tolerant than fruit buds. Damage can occur in the late fall or early winter if temperatures drop quickly. If temperatures warm up, or swing erratically in short periods of time, winter injury is more likely. Unhealthy or stressed vines are more vulnerable to winter injury.

How often should you water grape vines? ›

It's important to note that even if you're in the midst of a brown-lawn drought, you don't want to water too much. Once every 10 days or two weeks is plenty. Worse than dry, thirsty roots is waterlogged, drowning roots.

What is the lifespan of a grape vine? ›

That said, it's worth noting that grapevines can live for more than 125 years, with their yield tending to decrease gradually once they've reached about 20-25 years of age. The French term for old vines is vieilles vignes (literally, 'old vines').

Are coffee grounds good for grape vines? ›

Used coffee grounds are beneficial to grapes and other plants, but as with most fertilizers they should be used carefully. Applying too much coffee ground material can make the soil too acidic, hindering grapevine growth instead of helping it.

What is done to produce a high yield of grapes? ›

Supply of correct nutrients positively affects table grape yield. Production of higher yield comes from controlling the number of grape bunches and size of grape berries. Even berry size is highly desirable to ensure even grape maturity in order to maximize production per area.

How long should a grape trellis be? ›

A grape trellis for table grapes should typically be around five to seven feet tall, while a wine grape variety should be three feet tall. If you're a wine lover, here is a guide on making wine from grapes. A sturdy trellis must have at least two feet buried in the ground, so a 10-foot trellis should work.

What temperature kills grapevines? ›

Grapevines are sensitive to freezing temperatures during the growing season and spring frost can damage buds and young shoots. Temperatures below -1º C (30 º F) can damage vines.

At what temperature do grape vines shut down? ›

During a heat wave — when temperatures reach 95°F or more — grapes start shutting down, trying to conserve water.

Is Epsom salt good for grape vines? ›

Epsom salt -- magnesium sulfate -- contains magnesium, sulfur and oxygen. All three help fuel healthy grapevine growth. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 10, depending on the species and variety, grapevines are prone to magnesium deficiency under certain conditions.

Can grapes be overwatered? ›

We also monitor soil moisture and increase irrigation by 10-25% during hot periods (high temps >90°F). It is important to note the risks of both over- and under-watering in your vineyard. Overwatering early to mid-season can encourage overly vigorous vegetative growth and overshading in your canopy.

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