Grape Garden Guide

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Grape Care At A Glance

Choose an appropriate site:

  • A sunny, warm location free from heavy winds or low areas where standing water or late frosts are possible.
  • Loose, well-drained soil is best. Grapes will not thrive in heavy clay soils.
  • Dormant, bare-root grapes may be planted as soon as the ground can be worked.
  • Optimal planting time for grapes from containers is late winter to spring, or in the fall.

Grape Prep Instructions

  • Soak the roots.
    • Prior to planting, soak roots for 8 to 24 hrs. in a bucket of clean water.
  • Amend the soil, while the roots are soaking.
    • Amend natural soil with leaf compost or peat moss to achieve a 50/50 blend of natural soil to the amendment.

NOTE: DO NOT use potting soil as an amendment. DO NOT add additional fertilizer other than ¼ cup of bone meal or other phosphate-type fertilizer at planting.

Grape Planting Instructions

  • Grape vines should be spaced 8 to 10 ft. apart. In rows that are 8 to 10 ft. apart.

NOTE: Rows should be arranged east to west to prevent eventual self-shading.

  • Once roots have properly soaked, plant grapes using amendment blended soil.

NOTE: DO NOT plant grape roots too deep. For bare-root grapes, inspect the plants for the previous soil line from the nursery. Roots should only be 1.5 to 2 inches below natural soil grade when planted.

  • Guidewires should eventually be erected.
    • One wire at approx. 3 ft. high and another at 6 ft. (This is not critical for the first 2 to 3 years)

Tip Pruning

  • Immediately after planting, tip prune the strongest vine back by a few inches, leaving at least two nodes at the top. If there is more than one cane, remove the weakest ones entirely.

NOTE: Tip pruning is critical, DO NOT skip this step.


  • Proper supplemental watering is a critical factor in the establishment of grapevines.
  • Rule of thumb is at least 1 inch of water per week, which equates to 2.5-3 gal. of water every 2 to 3 days. Possibly more when temperatures rise.

NOTE: DO NOT rely on rain events to supply enough water to establish healthy grapevines.

NOTE: Dormant, bare-root grapes can take a long time to break dormancy. They are warm seasons plants that require consistently hot weather during the day and night. Be patient and don't panic if other plants are already leafing out.

Grape Care - Maintenance After Establishment


Mature, productive grapevines are heavy feeders.

  • In early spring, while vines are dormant, apply a balanced 10-10-10 or complete 3-5-3 fertilizer according to product recommended label rates.
  • Also, in early spring apply 4 to 6 inches of manure or leaf compost as top-dressing over the root zone.

Pruning Mature Vines

As ornamentals, they are not terribly fussy plants and minimal cosmetic pruning can be done.

Proper pruning is critical for fruit production. Follow these steps:

  • Once plants have matured enough to attach to the trellis or guidewires, pruning will happen every year.

NOTE: Tie all canes loosely to the guidewire or trellis as they grow and mature, prune little to none the first few years.

  • Prune grapevines in late winter to early spring. This must be done prior to buds swelling.
  • Fruit is produced on 1-year-old wood from the previous season. These canes will be about ¼ inch diameter (#2 pencil thick), with nodes (where the buds are located) about 5-6 inches apart.
  • First, select and plan to keep 4 to 6 canes with 10 to 12 buds on each.
  • All other canes and vines can be removed but leave several 2-bud spurs (canes) near the main stem for next year's growth to come from.
  • In spring when buds swell and break, a single vine will develop that is typically 3 to 6 ft. long. Along this vine, fruit and foliage will grow from a bud at each node. Maintain this entire vine length, as the first 1-2 buds on each cane may fail to grow, but buds further down the vine will produce the foliage and eventually the fruits.

Disease & Insect Pests

Sanitation is critical to prevent diseases and pests.

  • Cleaning up all and any fallen debris is important to keep disease to a minimum.
  • Always remove any dry, mummified fruits. This is the first sign of black rot.
  • Preventative spraying with dormant oil sprays is an effective control measure. These should be applied in early winter after vines have gone dormant or in early spring.
  • Prevention for fungal diseases is done with rotational applications of proper fungicides.
  • Soft-bodied pests such as whitefly, aphids, or mites are best controlled with low impact Insecticidal soaps such as Safer® brand.
  • Worm pests like skeletonizers, cutworms, or hornworms can be controlled with products such as Thuricide® by Bonide® with the natural active ingredient of BT (Bacillus thuringiensis).