The art of grape-growing is only slightly older than the art of inebriation. Ever since the serendipitous discovery that fermentation is a good thing, grape-growing has been studied, experimented with, and generally ripped apart to the core with the objective of finding the best way to grow the best grapes.
The intention, of course, is to siphon off a bit of the revenue from one of the world’s biggest markets into a few well-fed pockets. Whether you’re interested in learning how to grow grapes for the commercial aspect, aesthetic value, or merely for the pleasure of eating the fruit of your own labor, information on the subject abounds.
One problem is, though, a lot of the really good tips are closely guarded family or corporate secrets. The second problem is that it lies hidden in great volumes. The third problem is that most of the really good stuff is in archaic French, so, even if your high school skills are well over par, you’d probably throw in the proverbial grape-grower’s beret by the middle of the first chapter.
Now, grape-growing needn’t be as discouraging as that if you only want the basics – prepare, plant, tend, reap. Choosing the right spot is very important because a lot of things hinge on this. Grapevines need a place where air and water don’t stagnate but are still plentiful. Rich soil is also needed. The next step is to choose what variety grows best on the type of land you plan to use and the climatic conditions where you live. A helpful tip here would be to decide what the end use of the grapes will be.
Next is the planting of the grapevines. This is a crucial step as the rootstock doesn’t take well to desiccation and out-of-soil storage. Be sure to plant them in even rows with at least 8 feet between vines. The land needs to be sloping to provide good water and air drainage. Learning how to grow grapes properly is mostly in the planting.
The next step is to wait….and wait….and wait. Grapes take anywhere from two to four years to bear fruit. In the meantime, take care of them, protecting them from pests, and regularly checking that the leaves have a healthy dark color, and composting the base of the plants if not. You can train your grapevines on what is called a trellis, which is a support base for the floppy vines to hold on to. This is a tedious job with young plants but will help you manage them later.
Pruning is a great way to divert nutrients to the fruit – your grapes will be the bigger and the juicier for it. Prune only new shoots that aren’t going to bear fruit or hold on to the trellis for better support. Once your vines go into fruition, tend to them carefully until maturity, and your harvest will be bountiful.