Planting and growing grape vines in The UK

How and when to plant grapes vines in your garden

THE PLANTING of grape vines in the UK has grown in popularity over the past few years and they are a welcome addition to many gardens.

The best soil for planting grapes is good, deep free draining soil  in a sunny site, the root system of a grapevine can grow very deep so soil does need to be well cultivated..

How to train grape vines: Grape vines can be trained up walls, trellises or over arches and as long as they are pruned carefully and kept under control grape vines actually need very little space in which to grow

The two basic types of grapes are Dessert Grapes or Wine Grapes

Grow dessert grapes in a greenhouse so that they ripen properly or plant in a container in a conservatory and place outdoors in winter.

Growing grapes for wine: The vine is best grown outdoors in a warm sheltered spot on a South or south/west facing wall or fence. Grape vines are hungry and do need regular feeding with a balanced feed such as blood, fish and bone every six weeks or a liquid feed (such as seaweed fertiliser) every three weeks.

The best time to plant your vine: The best time to plant your wine or dessert vine is between October and March into weed free ground so that the roots can become established over the dormant period. If you are going to train your climbing vines over a wire or other support system then makes sure it is in place before you plant the vine. Plant vines about 4ft apart and 9 inches away from any wall
The best time to prune grapevines: The main pruning of a grape vine should take place in early winter with the pinching out of any new shoots, thinning and training taking place in the spring and summer months.

How to prune a grapevine: During the first year of grapevine growing allow three stems to grow vertically, securing them to a cane, pinch out any of the shoots that grow from the side down to one leaf. In the autumn, when the foliage dies, untie the stems from the cane and tie two down to the bottom wire, one on each side of the cane. Then prune the third stem, leaving three buds to provide replacement stems next year. In spring, allow shoots to grow vertically from the branches that have been tied down. Aim to have shoots every 15cm (6in) – you may need to prune some out to achieve this.

Pinch off side shoots to leave one leaf and when the shoots reach the top wire, pinch off their growing tips. Tie the three replacement shoots to the centre cane. It is important to keep air flowing to the grapes so when fruit makes its appearence it mat be necessary to remove some leaves.

Removing flowers on young grapevines: In the first two years of planting all flowers should be removed. Keep only three bunches of grapes on a 3 year old vine and ncrease this  to about five on a 4 year old vine although more can be allowed if the vine is fruiting well. After the 4th year you can allow the grape vine to crop fully.

The best time to harvest and Pick grapes : With your grapevine growing and fruit ripening, the overriding wish is to taste but remember your grapes are only ready for picking when they feel soft to the touch and have a sweet taste. The skin on the white grape vine changes from deep green to yellow and becomes much thinner.

How to tell when your grapes are ready: You can tell when your grapes are mature by tasting – when they are at their sweetest they are ready! To harvest your vines cut them in bunches and keep the stalk attached.

Wine grapes can be eaten fresh or can be pulped and made into wine, whilst dessert grapes should be eaten as soon as possible after.

Growing your own grape vines: There is an ever increasing number of grape varieties available and, even here, at Larch Cottage Nurseries up in the cold North West of the country we have a number of varieties which grow all year long, specifically as climbers trailing over the timber trellis roof structure of the shade garden or over the wall at the front of The Greenhouse Restaurant

If you are thinking of growing your own grape vine then we would recommend:

Vitis Brant AGM: A vigorous and hardy grapevine, which forms long woody stems and has large light green palmate foliage. Bunches of sweet dark purple bloomy grapes are produced Aug-Sep, lovely autumn colour. South wall or conservatory, fertile soil

Vitis Regent: The Vitis Regent produces a multi purpose grape with black very sweet dessert grapes produced when grown indoors and red dessert or wine grapes produced when grown outdoors

Vitis vinifera ‘Vroege V. D. Laan’: A Dutch variety of white outdoor grape. Flowers April-May. Hardy, best planted on a south facing wall. Ht 2m. Plant in alkaline soil.

Vitis vinifera ‘Spetchley Red’: A selection made at Spetchley Park, Worcs., for its superb bright red autumn colour. Typical vigorous growth and handsome foliage, suitable for covering all manner of things. Hardy. Best in sun though happy in semi -shade. One of the best intense autumnal reds available.