The hot and often humid Texas weather lends itself to growing grapes. Depending on your location, you may opt for Ruby Cabernet, Muscadine, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot or Chardonnay grape varieties. You will find that learning how to plant grapes in Texas—and paying close attention to giving the new vines a good start—has the potential of saving you a lot of time when it comes to maintaining your plants within the landscape later on.
Choose a growing location in full sun and prepare the soil. Do a soil pH test and supplement the soil as needed to reach a neutral—7.0 pH--to slightly acidic result. If you have clay soil, add sand and compost to improve drainage. Since the roots of your grapevines take up oxygen from the pores and pockets that exist within the ground, a heavily compacted area that stores water to the exclusion of air slowly suffocates them.
Pick out your grapes with weather conditions in mind. For example, the winters in the western portion of Texas can be quite severe; this makes the area unsuitable for hot-climate Chardonnay grapes that bud very early in the season—well ahead of the last frost—and lack the hardiness to stay alive during the cold months. Cool climate varieties, such as white Riesling grapes, do very well in the western area.
Put up trellises for the growing vines. If you allow your grapevines to grow along the ground, they may fall victim to fungal diseases. This danger is higher if you live in a Texas region with elevated rainfall and heat; your Chenin Blanc grapes in particular may fall victim to the Botrytis fungus. The vines may also get entangled, which makes for an unappealing mess in your yard.
Plant your grape plants along the trellises. The best window of opportunity runs from the end of February all the way through April. Generally speaking, you should get the grape plants into the ground immediately prior to the season’s last freeze.
Set up a watering schedule that reflects your location’s weather conditions. For example, if you live in eastern or southern Texas, there is ample rainfall during the year but for the early summer months. You must water during that season. As a general rule of thumb, if there is insufficient rainfall, water at least once every three weeks. Older vines require roughly 28 gallons of water per week.
Train the growing vines along the trellises. Use green florist’s wire to loosely attach vines to trellises. Cut off low buds with an X-acto knife; this ensures that the plant directs its energy to strengthening the desirable vines. Please note that this advice only applies to the hobbyist grower; the commercial vintner does not train vines until the second year to ensure the growth of a strong root system that can supply plentiful harvests.
Watch out for common grape diseases. Black rot and Pierce’s Disease are common to most grapes, although Muscadines can usually resist them. Pierce’s Disease is most widespread around the Gulf of Mexico; if you live in this area consider planting Blanc du Bois or Norton grapes that can also resist Pierce’s Disease. While affected vine removal is the only means of preventing Pierce’s Disease spread to other vines, fungicide sprays can counteract black rot.