Grapes are hardy plants that thrive when other plants die. Once well established, they are actually hard to kill off, but those who truly want vibrant grapevines laden with sweet and delicious fruit do well to provide proper grape plant care. Proper nurture and protection from pests increase the odds of a bountiful harvest of grapes.
Grapevines thrive in full sun; a sunny location and warm temperatures provide an optimal growth environment for grapes. Grapes spread and therefore require 6 or more feet between plants. Holes dug deep and wide enough to prevent overcrowded roots are ideal. Roots spread out and covered with soil increase the odds of strong and healthy grapevines. Rocks placed in the bottom of the soil help the soil drain well; grapes prefer well-draining soil.
Daily watering of new grape plants provides essential moisture in the first stages of life. More established grape plants only need watering a couple of times a week, except during hot and dry temperatures. When temperatures soar, resume daily watering. Ample water keeps roots moist and supple and results in juicy and plump grapes.
New grape plants do well with nitrogen-rich fertilizer fed to the plant two weeks after planting. More established grapevines require less fertilizer. Over-fertilizing mature grape plants may result in bushy green growth, but little fruit. A soil test may determine a lack of potassium or phosphorous; feed if these are lacking. Avoid fertilizer that contains herbicides, which cause damage to grape plants and may result in delayed maturation and poor or no fruit production for up to three years.
Grape plants thrive when allowed to grow wild, but training increases fruit production and results in healthier grape plants. A simple 6-foot stake provides necessary support and structure to grape plants. Other support options include fences, poles, wires and arbors. Grapevines wound around the structures allow the plants to grow in the desired direction and keep the fruit off the ground.
Grape plants grow well in the first season without pruning, but pruning becomes essential beginning in the second year. Pruning all but the strongest vines results in more fruit. Pruning done in the dormant season results in vines that “bleed” in the spring, when the ground begins to warm. Growth occurs in the area where the vines bleed. Heavy pruning results in higher fruit production.
Fungicides protect grape plants from fungus. Nets placed over the fruit keep the grapes from damage or complete destruction from birds. Cleaning up fallen leaves reduces the amount of pest infestation on grape plants and decreases the amount of black rot caused by fungus.