Ministry of Agriculture

Home Garden Factsheets

Grapes in your garden

Grapes should be grown in full sunlight. They can be successfully grown in locations where peaches and sweet cherries will survive the winter and where tomatoes or sweet corn will mature. Well drained sandy loam soils are best for grapes. Clay soils delay maturity of crops and vines, while sandy soils advance maturity. Remember that grape plants are vines and require support usually on a post and wire trellis. Grape vines must be pruned different from fruit trees. Most home gardeners do not prune their grapes hard enough. Pruned grape vines will "bleed". This causes concerns to home gardeners but it is a good sign and the "bleeding" will stop.

Varieties

Grapes are grown for fresh eating, juice, jelly or wine. Seedless grapes are preferred for fresh eating or for raisins.

Fresh Eating Table Grapes

INTERLAKEN Green seedless. Slightly hardier than Himrod. Medium sized fairly tight clusters. Berries are crisp, sweet and fleshy. Good for eating fresh, excellent for raisins. Early.
HIMROD Large long loose cluster, green and seedless. Berries are sweet and juicy, excellent for raisins. Both Interlaken and Himrod have been grown successfully for years in the North Okanagan. Early.
SUFFOLK RED Pink to red berries, seedless in long loose clusters. Good flavour, early. Slightly less hardy, good to Zone 5.
GLENORA Bluish-black colour. Seedless, loose but heavy clusters. High quality. Same hardiness as Suffolk Red.
CANADICE Red colour or darker. Seedless and hardy. High quality. Good for fresh eating, juice, jelly or wine. Early.
SOVERIGN CORONATION Blue, mid season. A few seeds. Developed at the Summerland Research Station.
REMAILLY Large, seedless, green (white) early. The most winter tender of the seedless grapes grown in this area.
SKOOKUM SEEDLESS New from the Summerland Research Station. Early, green, seedless hybrid with large berries. Hardy.
RELIANCE American hybrid. Large cluster, pinkish-red and seedless. Outstanding sweet flavour. Good for fresh eating, jellies and juice. Early and the hardiest grape available to home gardeners.

Wine Grapes

CHARDONNAY European white grape. One of the hardiest wine grapes, can be grown in cool areas. Excellent for dry white wines.
GEWURZTRAMINER Mid season, pinkish red grape. Spicy German style wine, often a pale yellow colour. Vines are less hardy than Chardonnay.
GOLDEN MUSCAT A hybrid grape. Very large clusters matures to a pale golden yellow. European muscat aroma and flavour. Used for Muscatel wines. Late.
GOLDEN MUSCAT A hybrid grape. Very large clusters; matures to a pale golden yellow. European muscat aroma and flavour. Used for Muscatel wines. Late.
PINOT NOIR Mid season, grows satisfactorily in cool areas. Small, dark blue European grape. Dry, pinkish red wine, moderately hardy.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON Small, purplish black berries. Strong flavour, red Bordeaux type wines. Requires a long growing season to mature. Ripens late.
MERLOT Late European black fruit. Large yields. High quality, rich red wines.
FOCH French hybrid wine grape. Small, black berries. Excellent red wine. Early and hardy.
PINOT GRIS Ripens mid season. White grape. Honey colored, richly flavored wine. Does best in areas with a long, cool growing season. Vinifera.
JOHANNISBURG REISLING Originated in Germany. White grape. Vinifera. Makes a white, Reisling type wine. Not yet widely planted.

 

For Juice and Jelly (Can be Used for Wine)

BATH Hybrid, blue, seeded and late maturing. Sweet, juicy with mild flavour. Vine is very vigorous and can overbear. Average to good hardiness. Makes acceptable wine.
CAMPBELL'S EARLY American. Large cluster, purplish to black. High quality. Excellent for juices, early, well adapted to many climates. Seeded.
BUFFALO American hybrid, concord type, but earlier. Bluish-black colour, with good aroma. Good for table use, jam , jelly or wine. Vigorous, heavy bearer, early and hardy.
PRICE American hybrid. Small clusters, bluish-black colour. Seeded, good quality. Good for the table and for juice. Ripens early, even in cool weather. Hardy.

There are many more grape varieties, but the above are usually the most readily available.

Planting

Plant well rooted one or two year old plants in the spring. Dig a hole deep and wide enough to accommodate the root system. Place a handful of bonemeal (phosphorus) in the bottom of the hole to help the root system get established quickly. Place the plant in the hole. The bottom roots should be at least 1 foot (30 cm) below ground level. Mix in some peat moss or compost with the planting soil. Replace the soil in the hole. Tread firmly to ensure that the vine is securely anchored in the ground. Give the vine a good watering. Grape plants should be spaced 5 feet (1.5m) within rows and 7 feet (2.1m) between rows. The soil immediately around the grape wine should be kept free of weeds or lawn grass during the early stages of growth.

Training and Pruning

Grapes are normally trained with one vertical trunk and four horizontal canes (4 arm kniffen system) on a system of posts and wires. The wooden posts should be no closer than 10 feet (3m) and are often further apart than this. The posts hold 2 wires with the first wire spaced 3 feet (0.9m) above the ground, and the second wire spaced 3 ft (0.9m) above the first wire.

In the first year allow one or two shoots to grow and tie these to the trellis. In the second year, choose one shoot to be the main trunk and prune the other one off. When the first shoot reaches the top wire tie it up and prune the terminal to encourage development of side shoots. As these develop retain 4 and prune out all the rest that develop. Tie these four shoots on to the wires, two on either side on the bottom wire and two on either side on the top wire.

Once the framework is established prune the four side canes to total of 50 buds. Leave a few buds spurs on the trunk near the wires to produce next years crop. After the first two years your grape vines with need to be pruned annually in March or early April. Remember that fruit is produced on current seasons growth, so without lots of new shoots you will not get a crop. Grape vines must be pruned hard every year. Remember that the largest grape bunches that ripen first and taste the sweetest are produced close to the main trunk. Grape bunches at the end of long canes are smaller and later to mature.

Soil and Fertilizer

Soils in the Southern Interior are chronically low in organic matter and nitrogen. Minor elements such as magnesium, boron, and zinc may be low as well. If good weed control is practiced, no fertilizer should be required for the first two to three years. When the vine starts to crop in the spring use 1.1 lb. (0.5 kg) of a complete fertilizer such as 12-16-12 (which also contains minor elements). Grape vines do not need as much nitrogen as fruit trees. Nitrogen stimulates late season growth which will not harden off before winter. Organic growers should use approved organic sources of nutrients.

Harvesting

For fresh eating and wine making, harvest the grapes when both colour and flavour reach their peak. Grapes for jelly are harvested just before peak maturity.

Winter Protection

Some of the more tender varieties may require winter protection. Vines can be untied and laid flat on the ground and covered with soil or straw. Failing this, banking dirt or straw up around the trunk will provide some protection.

Weed Control

Grapes are very sensitive to fumes from 2,4-D and can be seriously damaged, so herbicides containing 2,4-D should not be used near grape plants.

Pest Control

Grape leafhoppers appear as small white flies that feed on the leaves and are annoying at harvest. Powdery mildew is a fungus disease that attacks leaves and fruit. A dull gray-white mat of fungal growth develops on leaves and fruit. Infected berries may crack open and dry up. Botrytis bunch rot is another fungal disease that can cause a fuzzy rot of berries and entire bunches. It is more likely to occur in wet years. Birds feed on grapes as they begin to ripen and can destroy crops. Netting is the only sure way to protects your grapes from bird damage. For more information on pest management, check the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands publication "BC Home and Garden Pest Management Guide". Organic gardeners should use accepted organic control methods.

Revised February 2006