Caring for grape vines has the most challenges in the first few years. Once they are trained to a trellis system, the maintenance becomes less intensive. Growing grapes in the home garden is possible if you have enough room. The vines are quick to propagate, which means you can expand your grape orchard any time you like. There are many varieties of grapes. Some, such as Frontenac, are more suited for colder areas, up to USDA hardiness zone 3. Others, such as Concord and Muscadine, grow better in warmer climates. Make sure you select a variety that is suited for your climate.
Water the plants to keep the soil moist for a few months after planting. When leaves, flowers or fruit are present, water the soil from below to prevent disease and mildew from forming. Mature vines will need to be watered only when the weather has been very dry, hot or windy.
Train the main trunk of the vine to the vertical wire during the first growing season. During the winter remove any lateral shoots that have developed from the vine. If you have a multiwire trellis, allow the main vine to climb up to the next wire.
Apply 10 ounces of 10-20-20 fertilizer per vine each spring. Mulch each fall with a well-rotted manure around the base of the main vine. Keep the manure 2 inches from contact with the vine.
Train two shoots that appear an inch or 2 below the first wire to grow along the horizontal wire. Train one to go to the right and the other to the left of the vine. Cut off all other shoots and suckers while they are small. Cut off all flower clusters as you see them.
Select two of the strongest vertically hanging shoots from each of the horizontal shoots or arms. During the growing season, many shoots will grow from the arms. In the winter, prune off all but the two shoots you’ve selected. Again cut off any suckers or shoots coming from the trunk.
Select the pruning method you would like to use by the third year and follow it each winter. Choose from cane pruning, spur pruning, two-cane Kniffen and single curtain. You can also try four-cane Kniffen and head training. Head training is the least expensive and easiest to use but will provide less fruit.
Place netting over the grape vines if you are having a problem with birds eating the fruit.