Grapes are eaten fresh or are used to make jelly, jam and wine; they even take the form of gelatin and desserts. The grapevine bears clusters of fruit and also can be used as an attractive ornamental. Production of high-quality fruit requires proper care of the grapevine. Grapevines can be finicky when it comes to growing and producing fruit.
Grapevines require several years to produce their first crop. Sometimes a grapevine does not grow enough during the first year, making it necessary to prune it back so it can start over the following year. It is not unusual for it to take five or six years before full production of grapes is achieved. Grapevines can survive up to 100 years with proper care.
Grapevines are temperate zone plants. They require a cool season to make them dormant and a warm season to produce fruit as they mature. They thrive in areas where the relative humidity is low during the growing season and summer rains occur infrequently. The area cannot have a long period when the soil becomes excessively dry.
Grapevines prefer full sunlight and a southern exposure. They need high temperatures to ripen. The soil must drain well so the grapevines are never standing in water. Grapevines are usually planted in the fall or spring. This allows them to form a well-developed root system throughout the next growing season.
Each grapevine cultivar has fruit with an aroma and flavor different from every other grape. Two popular cultivars used in the juice and wine industry are Concord and Muscadine. Other popular varieties are De Chaunac, Edelweiss, Beta Bluebell, Canadice, Elvira, Esprit, Foch, Millot, Seyval, Swenson Red, Vanessa, Campbell's Early, Catawba, Delaware, Steuben, Chancellor and Chelois. Each type of grapevine has different growing requirements.
Grapevines must be trained on trellises to bear healthy fruit. Pruning and fertilizing are also necessary. Do not apply any fertilizer containing herbicides; grapevines are sensitive to fumes from chemicals used to control dandelions. A layer of mulch 4 to 6 inches deep needs to be applied to control weeds and preserve soil moisture. Grapevines are propagated by stem cuttings from healthy vines while they are dormant. This is accomplished in the late fall or early spring before new growth starts.