Grapes grow well in much of the Midwest. Ohio has some ideal areas for grape production near the great lakes and in the Ohio River valley. Grapes also perform well in the rest of the state with careful cultivar selection and site preparation. People have successfully grown grapevines in Ohio since the early 1800s. A grapevine can live 40 years or more and provide as much as 20 pounds of fruit every year once established.
Pick a location to plant the grapevines. An elevated site gives the best results. Avoid frost pockets (low areas) since Ohio is susceptible to late frosts that can damage grapevines. Grapes require full sun for optimal production, so choose a site that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day.
Prepare the bed the fall prior to planting. Remove all weeds and plant material. Amend the soil with a 3-inch layer of compost. Add sand to heavy, compacted soil to improve drainage. Grapes send their roots 6 to 8 feet into the ground in good soil. The deeper the roots the better the plant will survive drought and other extreme weather conditions of Ohio.
Choose an American or French hybrid for their winter hardiness, such as the Concord or Niagara grapes. Bare root grapes are available through mail order. You may find potted or bare root grapes at local garden centers.
Soak bare root grapes for three hours prior to planting. Prune the grape with pruners to one healthy cane, leaving two buds.
Dig the planting hole in early spring. Make the hole deep and wide enough for the roots to spread comfortably. Place the grape in the hole and backfill around it. Water until the soil has settled. Space the grapes 8 feet apart if trellising and 4 feet apart if they will grow up an arbor.
Test the soil pH with a kit and apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer after planting. Grapes need a soil pH around 6.0. You may need to add nitrogen to Ohio soil for better performance.
Spread a 4-inch layer of mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weeds. Add an additional 2 inches in the fall to protect the roots during the winter. Ohio’s cold winters can cause heaving if the grapes lack proper protection.