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Grapes Planting Guide

Planning

Grapes can do well on most any soil but the best is rich sand loams or clay loams. Unless planted in raised mounts, grapes will not do well in mucky, flooding areas. For the most vigorous growth an production it will need to be planted in full sunlight.  Preferably in slightly acid soil 9pH 6.0-6.5) but soils of up to moderate alkalinity are tolerated. If you are in doubt about the acidity in your soil take a sample to the Cooperative Extension Agent in your county.

Planting

Grapes should be planted in the middle of the main posts of your trellis. Now dig a hole about three times the size of your pot and the same depth as the root ball. Set the soil you have dug out aside and mix it 50/50 with aged mushroom compost, aged manure, or rotten pine bark. Remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball. Place the plant in the planting hole and replace the soil with the mix 50/50 and gently pack down the dirt. To avoid planting to deep make sure the plant is at a position with the top most roots at the soil line.  Next we need to thoroughly water the tree to settle the roots and eliminate air pockets. DO NOT PUT FERTILIZER IN THE PLANTING HOLE!  Only apply fertilizer at the correct time of year.

If desired, construct a water basin at the base of the tree about 36 inches in diameter. Mulch in the spring & summer time should be about 4-6 inches deep. Keep mulch a few inches away from the trunk of the tree for good air circulation. Space grapes 20 feet apart.

Fertilization

Chemical or organic, whatever you may choose makes sure that it contains iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, molybdenum, copper and boron. These elements are crucial to the plants growth. Application rates may vary. The amount of fertilizer increases every year until the fifth year. See chart below:

 

Year 1

Year 2 

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

10-10-10 or 10-0-10 with minerals

Sprinkle 1 cup (1/2 lb) in a 2ft circle around each plant in late February, late May and late July.

Sprinkle 2 cups (1lbs ) in a 4ft circle around each plant in late February, late May and late July.

Sprinkle 4 cups (2lbs ) in a 6ft circle around each plant in late February, late May and late July.

Sprinkle 6 cups (3lbs ) in a 6ft circle around each plant in late February, late May and late July.

Sprinkle 8 cups (4lbs ) in a 6ft circle around each plant in late February, late May and late July.

Espoma Citrus Tone (Organic)

Sprinkle 2 cup of Citrus Tone in a 2ft circle around each plant in late February, late May and late July.

Sprinkle 4 cup of Citrus Tone in a 4ft circle around each plant in late February, late May and late July.

Sprinkle 8 cup of Citrus Tone in a 6ft circle around each plant in late February and late July.

Sprinkle 10 cup of Citrus Tone in a 6ft circle around each plant in late February and late July.

Sprinkle 14 cup of Citrus Tone in a 6ft circle around each plant in late February and late July.

To maintain established grape vines (6th year and older), spread 10 cups (5lbs) of 10-10-10 (10-0-10) or 20 cups of Citrus Tone per vine in a 6ft area in late February and late May. Spread the fertilizer evenly avoiding a 5 inch area around the trunk. For Zones 8a-10, fertilize 3 times each year in late February, late May and late July/Early August. For plant further north (Zones 7), fertilize in March or after bud break. NEVER FERTILIZE AFTER AUGUST(JUNE IN ZONE 7) as this can cause growth to late in the year and your plant will be subject to freeze damage.

Grapes unlike other plants, need a lot of magnesium. If there isn’t enough magnesium in  your grapes, your fruit will turn yellow between the veins of older leaves and many cause pre-mature falling. For prevention of magnesium deviancy, Epsom salts can be applied at a new plant at the rate of 4-6 ounces for older vines. Spread the salt over a 6 foot circle.

Water

For the first year it is a critical time for your new grapes. It has not had time to establish itself yet and therefore is not as strong as an older tree. To prevent the tree from dying, it must be watered twice a week on light soil and once a week on clay soil. Be sure to soak the entire root system deeply, this will take about 45-60 minutes.

For best growth and production, grapes should receive at least one inch of water a week. Especially during dry spells, water is mandatory. If not properly watered during dry spells, fruit may drop prematurely. 

Pruning

Fruit is produced on new shoots developing from the previous year’s growth. In Year 3, canes that were produced the previous year should be cut back to 3 inches long in January or February.  These canes will grow shoots; these shoots will produce fruit during the next summer. The new shoot should be cut back to 3 inches long the next winter, this will form the first fruiting spurs.

Depending on your plants growth rate, the spurs should be thinned in Year 5 or 6 after planting. During your winter prune, remove every other shoot, aiming for a fruiting spur every 6 inches on each main limb. If possible, choose spurs on the top of the vine. As the vine ages, allow a few extra shoots to grow to become replacement spurs. Remove any tendrils twining around the arms or spurs to prevent girdling.

Pollinating

Choose at least one self-pollinating grape to pollinate up to four females. If you want only one grape, choose a self-pollinating variety. Ideally, every third grape in a row should be self-fertile to pollinate adjacent female plants. Females should be no more than 30 feet from a self-fertile pollinator.