Grapes (Vitaceae) are perennial plants and grow in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9, depending on the species. Some homegrown grapes are great to eat fresh or processed in jellies, juice or wine, but species and hybrids of grapes differ widely in their taste and usage. Some are better for fresh eating, while others are best for processing.
Grow grapes in well-drained, deep soil, of neutral or slightly alkaline pH between 5 and 6. Grapes like full sun and moderately moist, but well-drained soil. Plant grapevines in the early spring and keep mulched, fertilized with applications of 10-10-10 fertilizer seven days after planting, then yearly, and free of weeds and pests. During the first year, the vine is pruned to a single cane and tied to a stake. After establishment, train the grapevine on a trellis or arbor for support. Annual pruning is very important, according to Ohio State University extension literature. Consult your local county extension office for assistance because proper grapevine pruning requires practice and experience.
Propagating grape vines is relatively easy. Sections of healthy grape vines are cut in late fall or early spring. A section of vine with three nodes is used, with the bottom cut angled. The cutting is placed in soil and lightly covered up to the second bud. Cuttings kept moist and placed in a humid environment will have better root establishment. After cuttings have rooted sufficiently, they are placed outside in the shade, still potted, and then moved to the vineyard after adjusting to the outside environment.
Candace is an American grape (Vitis labrisca) good for eating fresh, wine making, and drying for raisins. Candace is an early bearing, hardy variety.
Concord is a late season American grape, deep purple-blue and rich tasting. Concord is widely used for jelly, juice and wine making.
Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) grapes are popular in the South. Muscadines are produced in climates with warm winters and hot, humid summers. Scuppernong is a bronze-green muscadine grape.
Pests and Disease
Manage insects and diseases of grapes before they get out of hand. Proper sanitation of the growing area, pruning the vines for open air circulation, and keeping up with an effective spray program is beneficial. Common insects on grapes include the grape berry moth, Japanese beetle, grape flea beetle, red mites, grape root borers, and grape phylloxera. Grape diseases include downy mildew, black rot, powdery mildew, cane and leaf spot, and botrytis bunch rot or gray rot. Selection of disease resistant grape cultivars is important. Local county extension offices are recommended sources to learn about pests and diseases specific to a region.
Harvest grapes when they are sweet to the taste. Grape flavor quality does not improve after harvesting, so it is important to wait until they are sweet--color isn't always a good indication of sweetness. Using scissors or a sharp knife is useful in harvesting ripe clusters of grapes.