According to the National Grape Cooperative, grapes were a staple in the hunter/gatherer diet long before they were domesticated. The first efforts at growing wild grapes occurred around 6000 B.C. Since then, man has grown grapes, both for fruit production and wine in vineyards. A well-maintained vineyard may produce grape vines that last up to 100 years. Although older grape vines produce fewer grapes, these grapes have more concentrated flavor. The secret to growing healthy grape vines that last a long time is to plant them correctly.
Select healthy grape vines to begin your vineyard. Most grape vines grown in the United States are grown from cuttings that are either rooted or grafted. These cuttings should come from healthy, disease-free plants that have produced fruit vigorously.
Select a location for your grape vines on land that is on the south side of a hillside in well-drained soil. Locations with southern exposure receive more sunlight and less frost.
Erect trellises for your grapevines by sinking fence posts 3 feet deep into the ground at the end of your trellis rows. The fence posts should angle away from your rows. Stretch 12-gauge wire between the fence posts so that it is 6 feet off the ground. Set each row 9 feet apart.
Place each vine in the ground approximately 8 feet apart. Dig a hole in the ground that is slightly larger than the root ball. Prune away any dead, broken or long roots from the plant. Place it in the ground and fill in the space around the plant with dirt.
Remove all except the strongest vine from the plant. Place a bamboo stake in the ground and tie the vine to it loosely with flexible plant ties to train it to grow up onto the trellis.
Mulch around the plants to hold in moisture and crowd out weeds that would compete with the vines for water and nutrients. Hand pull weeds to remove them or cultivate no more than 1 inch with a garden fork to avoid disturbing vine roots.
Check the plants daily by sticking your finger into the soil up to the second joint. Water to keep the soil consistently as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Once plants are established, reduce water. Mature grape vines only need irrigation in areas of low rainfall.
Remove lateral shoots with pruning shears in the first year after planting. Pinch out the tip and allow two lateral shoots to grow along the trellis in the second year.