Western Tennessee mainly encompasses hardiness zone 7, offering a warm climate for grape growing. Gardeners in the area can grow many types of wine or table grapes with little need to worry about frost protection. Grapevines require regular care to remain healthy, but reward vigilant gardeners with grapes for jelly, juice or wine.
Western Tennesee gardeners can choose either wine or table grapevines. Tennessee Wines notes the following wine grape varieties do well in that state: Zinfandel, Viognier, Niagara, Muscadine, Merlot, Delaware, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon. The University of Tennessee Extension suggests Niagara, Concord, Norton or Delaware for table grapes. Muscadine grapes can be damaged in cold winters but grow better in western Tennessee, since it's warmer.
Don't expect grapes the year after planting. According to the University of Tennessee Extension, grapevines take an average of four years to begin bearing a full crop of fruit. During this time frame you'll still need to provide adequate care, but you won't receive any grapes.
According to Essential Garden Guide, grapes do not need heavy irrigation once they're established (that is, bearing fruit). Care for young grapevines by irrigating until the soil becomes saturated, then allowing the soil to dry out thoroughly. Stick one finger into the soil to determine the moisture level under ground. Water only when this feels dry. Giving excess water can lead to chlorinosis or root rot.
The University of Tennessee Extension suggests growers throughout that state fertilize their vines annually using 0.3 lbs. of ammonium nitrate per grapevine. To apply this, scatter the amount around the soil in a 4- to 6-foot area near the base of your grapevine, then water the ground to work it in. Fertilize in early spring while the grapevine is still dormant. Too much fertilizer promotes heavy leaf growth and reduces fruit quality.
Pest and Disease Control
West Tennessee growers should be vigilant in looking for plant pests. The University of Tennessee Extension advises growers to rake all fallen leaves and dispose of them, and to prune vines annually to keep the plant in good health. Since birds are a major pest, cover the grapevine with a sheath of netting to protect your crop.
WineMaker Magazine and IPM Centers provide lists of common grapevine diseases, with symptoms and control methods. If you notice your grape leaves changing color, developing blotches or otherwise looking different, consult these guides to identify your disease or call a county extension officer for help.
Don't rely on color as an indication of ripeness. To ensure your grapes have the flavor you want, pull one off the vine and taste it. The longer grapes remain on the vine, the sweeter they get. To harvest, clip clusters off the vine with shears.