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Learn about Grapes

Grapes: Bare Root or Potted Fruit Plant

How to Plant

  • Plant in full sun in an area with well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5-7.0. 


  • Set grape plants 10 feet apart.


  • When choosing a site, bear in mind that grapes need to be grown on a support.


  • At planting time cut back the top of the plant to a single stem with 4 buds. These will produce short shoots the first season.

Planting Bare Root Plants:

  • Dig the holes about one foot deeper than the plants will be set and fill with a mixture of compost and soil.
  • Trim off very long or broken roots.
  • Plant slightly deeper than the base of the stems.
  • Plant into the hole and back fill with loose soil. Gently press soil in around the root ball. Transplants need good root-to-soil contact. Do not press too hard because that can cause soil compaction and root damage. 
  • Gently water around the root ball to settle the soil and drive out air pockets.
  • After planting be sure to mark the plants with plant labels so you know where they are and what varieties they are.  

Planting Potted Plants: 

  • Set the plant in the hole at the same depth as it was growing in the pot. 
  • Backfill the hole and press firmly around the base of the planting. 
  • Leave a shallow depression around plants to hold water. 
  • Water deeply. The water will seal off any air pockets around the root ball. 
  • After planting be sure to mark the plants with plant labels so you know where they are and what varieties they are.  


How to Grow

  • Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients. Control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
  • Mulch around the plants to a depth of 2-3 inches or organic matter to preserve moisture and prevent weeds.
  • Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1-2 inches of rain per week during the growing season. It's best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
  • In spring, before any leaves sprout, apply a granular fertilizer such as Garden-tone following the instructions on the label. Most new growth will come from the plant’s crown from under the soil. Plants use a lot of energy in spring when new growth begins, so do not let plants dry out.
  • As the vines grow, train them on a support system such as a trellis. Your trellis must be able to bear a lot of weight as vines grow to be large and old.
  • You can also train them along a fence. Set durable wood or metal posts 15-18 feet apart and sink them at least 3 feet into the ground. Stretch two galvanized wires between the posts; one
     2 ½ feet and one 5 ½ feet above the ground.
  • Grapes require heavy pruning annually for vigorous growth and fruiting. Pruning also reduces disease by permitting good air circulation. Prune in late winter or early spring while the plants are dormant.
  • In February, select the strongest shoot, shorten it to 4 buds and remove other shoots at the trunk. As this shoot grows, tie it to the nearest horizontal wire. This will form the main trunk. Lateral buds along the trunk will develop and produce canes.
  • The following February, select 4 pencil-sized canes, 2 on either side of the trunk, and attach them to the horizontal wires. Remove other canes along the trunk, leaving 4 shoots with 2 buds on each to develop into fruit-bearing canes the following year. The best fruit is produced on pencil-sized canes between the second and twelfth bud from the base.  
  • If you are training the vines on an arbor for shade and fruit, cut back the previous season’s growth about ¼ of its length each spring until the arbor is covered. Then, annually prune out all canes smaller than pencil-size and cut back some of the larger canes to 2-3 buds.
  • Monitor for Pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.


Harvest and Preserving Tips

  • Pick fruit promptly to discourage insects.
  • Protect fruit crops with bird netting as they approach ripeness or bag individual clusters with sturdy, brown paper type bags tied securely to the cane when clusters are about half developed. Leave enough air space in the bags for clusters to develop.
  • Once grapes are cut from the vine, they will not ripen any further.
  • Berries change from green to red, purple or white depending on the variety. Most berries develop full color before peak flavor. When fully ripe, the natural bloom or whitish coating on the berries should be more noticeable. The seeds turn from green to brown, and berries become slightly less firm to the touch.
  • Try to harvest after a long dry spell in mid to late September just BEFORE a rain event. Ripe grapes may split or taste not as sweet after a rain event.
  • Seeds turn from green to brown, and berries become slightly less firm to the touch when ready to pick.
  • Pick the grapes when they are ripe by cutting the entire bunch from the vine.
  • Store the grapes in a container with soft lining to prevent bruising the fruits.
  • Grapes are best eaten right away, but can be kept for a few weeks in the fridge. They may also be frozen, dried, made into jams and jellies, pickled or made into wine or vinegars.


Common Disease Problems

Botrytis Bunch Rot: Flattened, black masses of fungus appear on canes. Open flowers can become infected which in turn infect the berries. Berries become mummified. Burpee Recommends: Prune to improve air circulation. Allow fruit to ripen in an open canopy by pruning accordingly. Remove mummified fruit as the disease overwinters in the berries.

Crown GallRough, wart-like growths or galls appear on the crown at or just below the soil surface. These can also form on the stems or canes. Plants can become stunted, subject to drought stress and wind damage. Large enough galls may cause girdling which results in plant death. Burpee Recommends: Examine the canes prior to planting for any indication of galls. Avoid injury of the plant. You can remove the gall if it is small enough by cutting around it into healthy wood allowing that area to dry out, cutting into healthy tissue as little as possible. If plant is severely infected, remove it.

Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish gray patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves and all green parts of the plant. Burpee Recommends: Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations. 

Pierce’s DiseaseThe severity of this disease varies depending on time and length of infection. Leaves become slightly yellow or red along the margins in white and red varieties respectively, eventually causing the margins to dry or die. Fruit clusters will shrivel. Leaves will fall off leaving petioles attached to the stems. New wood will mature irregularly. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected vines during the dormant season. If severely infected, harsh pruning may be required. 

Powdery Mildew occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations. 


Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Ants: Feed on the fruit. Burpee Recommends: Avoid using cover crops near grape plantings, unless using common vetch, which helps deter ants from eating grapes. Control mealybugs and aphids, which attract ants.

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap. 

Discolored Foliage: Brown foliage can result from drought stress, particularly in mid-summer. Burpee Recommends: Water regularly and use mulch to conserve water and control weeds.

Grape Bud Beetle: Light gray beetles open crop buds and eat the centers.  Burpee Recommends: Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for control assistance. 

Mealybugs: The grape mealybug has two generations each year and overwinters as an egg or as crawlers. They are flat, oval-shaped, white and waxy. They contaminate grape clusters with cottony egg sacs and leave behind black sooty mold. They can transmit grape viruses. Burpee Recommends: Introduce natural enemies to the area such as ladybugs. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for control assistance. 


Grape FAQs

Do I need two different varieties to get fruit?  No, grape plants are self-fruitful and do not need cross pollination by another variety.

Can we make our own wine?  Yes, if you are using the right grapes, the right culture to produce a high sugar grape and the right fermenting process.

What can I spray on my grapes? Burpee cannot advise on any chemical application to any plant. Please contact your local cooperative extension for the best cultural and chemical practices in your area.

What grape variety can I grow in zones 9-10? Native muscadine grapes are best to grow in warmers climates. Always check the zone recommendations when choosing a variety as many grape require cold winters.

Will I get fruit the first year? No. Expect first fruit in 2 years after planting and 3-5 years after planting for full fruit.

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