Growing Grapes

Once only a crop grown in the Mediterranean, you can now grow both green and red grapes in the UK on account of much breeding done to produce hardy varieties. Areas in the UK that are affected by the Gulf Stream – western England, Wales and western Scotland have a climate more suited to growing some varieties. Other varieties can be grown in any area of the UK, but may require a degree of protection from the cold in winter, or be grown indoors.

Planting Grapes
Plant containerised grapes at any time of the year, however avoid long periods of drought, which may stress the newly-planting vines. Before planting into the ground ensure that the soil has been dug over and that you incorporate a thick layer of bulky compost to increase the nutrient contents of the soil and improve the soil texture to make it more moisture-retentive, yet well-draining.
Apply a general fertiliser over the surface of the soil.
Put up horizontal wires on the wall outdoors 30cm (12in) apart using vine eyes to set the wires slightly away from the wall.
Place the containerised plant into the planting hole so that the soil mark on the main stem is flush with the soil surface of the planting hole.
Insert a cane for the main stem to grow up, and cut back the main shoot to 60cm (24in). Tie the stem to the support.
Cut back all side stems to leave a bud
Water in the newly-planted vine well.

Feeding Grapes
Incorporate a thick layer of bulky compost to the soil before planting, 4 weeks before planting.
Apply a general fertiliser to the soil surface just before planting, to give the grape vine a head-start in growing in its new environment.
Once fruits develop, apply a liquid feed high in potassium to encourage good fruit development as per instructions on the pack. The dosage will depend on weather conditions and how established the plants are.

Watering Grapes
Water soil well after planting. You can also put down a layer of mulch after planting to keep the moisture locked up in the soil and keep the soil warm for optimum root growth.
Water thoroughly and regularly during particularly warm weather, preferably in the mornings and evenings.

Training Grapes

First and second year after planting:
Spring/summer: Train the leading main stem up the cane tying loosely with twine. Train and tie side-stems that are near to the horizontal wires onto the wires. Then cut back the tips of the side stems to leave five to six leaves and remove any flowers.
Late autumn: Shorten any new growth of the leading main stem by a half. Cut back the side stems to about 2.5cm (1in) from the main stem. These will then form the fruiting branches (spurs).

Third and subsequent years after planting:
Spring: Train the leading stem up the cane again if need be. Allow each side stem to produce a bunch of grapes and cut back the rest of the side stems to two leaves beyond that bunch. Any non fruit-bearing stems can be cut back to five leaves again to promote fruiting.
Late autumn/ early winter: Shorten the main stem to about a half its length. And once again, cut back the side branches to one or two fat buds from the main stem.

Harvesting and Storing Grapes
Harvest the crop by taste-testing; judging ripeness by colour is not a fool-proof way. A rule of thumb is harvesting anytime up to a fortnight or two months after you’ve noticed them darken to red/purple with dark grapes or full and green in white grapes.
Remove grapes in bunches by severing the stem at 2in on either side of the main fruit stalk. You can keep the grapes up to month if one of the ends of the severed stem is inserted into water and all stored in a cool, dark place.

Best Varieties of Grapes
Red ‘Flame’
Red ‘Regent’
White ‘Superior Seedless’
White ‘Golden Champion’

Pests and Diseases of Grapes - Shanking, Vine Powdery mildew, Birds