How Do Grape Vines Grow?
Grape vines are grown in areas with a latitude of 30 to 50 degrees N. They are planted in early spring about 5 to 8 feet apart in full sun, preferably on a hill that gently slopes to the south or southwest. If more than one row is planted, the rows should be about 8 to 12 feet apart. A trellis with two horizontal wires is used for support and is constructed in an east-west direction for the grapes to get maximum sun exposure.
Grape vines are planted in soil that is neither too sandy nor contains too much clay. Soil that can maintain an even amount of moisture is best. Adding compost can often help amend soil. In addition, grape vines grow best in soil that has a pH level between 5 and 6.0. Soil is tested using pH test trips, available at most nurseries, and the pH is adjusted by either adding lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower the pH. Water grapes regularly during the spring and summer months, but watering is tapered off during late summer and fall before winter.
Grape vines begin to grow and pruning is essential to a successful crop. Pruning grapevines takes practice and getting it right is often difficult. In general though, in the beginning, all shoots are pinched off except for one, which will become the main stalk. Then, when it reaches the first wire, it is loosely tied to it. Then, all growths are pruned off except one going toward the second wire and two going off to either side.
The vines will continue to grow toward the sides and upward. When the one reaches the top wire, it is loosely tied. Again, one vine is allowed to grow toward each side and all others are pinched off. Each year, pruning is necessary during winter when the vines are cut back to the wires, leaving about 6 to 10 buds on each lateral branch.
In just over a 150 days, grapevines are thriving and filling in the trellises, however it usually takes about three years for the vines to produce good fruits. Well established grape vines can produce fruits for over 40 years. Fertilizing is necessary once a year in early spring--about one month before the new growth begins, however, in the first year, it is applied right after planting. Fertilizing provides the vines essential nutrients and minerals for them to thrive. In the first year, 1/2 pound of fertilizer is added to each plant, the second year a pound is added and the third year on, 1 1/2 pounds of fertilizer is added to each plant. Fertilizer labeled 10-10-10 is used and is spread around the diameter of the vine about 6 to 12 inches away from the base of the plant.