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Growing Grapes Has a Dual Purpose for Gardeners

Sunday, February 18, 2024

When thinking about grapes, most people picture the vast vineyards in California or even Italy, but did you know China was the top grape-producing country? The United States ranks fourth in the world for grape production with nearly 6 million tons grown each year. Although Oklahoma is best known for growing wheat, adventurous gardeners can grow grapes in the landscape.


Grapes are not only a tasty fruit, but they make a great addition to the landscape. As with growing most any fruit or vegetable, success begins with selecting the proper variety. The performance of any variety is greatly influenced by local growing conditions and climate, so be sure to select a variety adapted to your area. Something else to keep in mind is the use of the grape, whether they’ll be used for wine or raisins or used as table grapes to eat fresh. 


Good table grape selections include Jupiter, Mars, Neptune, Reliance, Saturn, and Venus. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Concord are good choices for wine making.


Seasoned gardeners know the importance of site selection, and it’s no different for growing grapes. Grapes require full sunlight and can be grown in a wide range of soil types as long as there’s adequate drainage and moisture retention. A loamy to sandy loam soil that has been amended with organic matter and a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is preferable.


Select an area with good air circulation. If using rows, run them north and south to take advantage of the most sunlight. This method of planting also will make the plants less susceptible to wind damage.


Right now is a good time for grape planting in Oklahoma as long as there are no hard freezes on the horizon. Before planting bare-root grapes, soak them in a bucket of water for two to three hours before planting. Also, dig the hole larger than the root system to help ensure the roots don’t become twisted during the planting process. Trim any damaged roots before planting. Spread out the roots in the planting hole and firmly pack the soil enough to hold the vine in the ground. Prune the top of a single healthy cane. Be sure to water in the vine.


It's a good idea to install a trellis or support system for the grapevines to climb. This helps with air circulation, sun exposure and ease of maintenance. 


Gardeners can fertilize annually in the spring but avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers which can cause vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production.


Depending on the variety, grapes are harvested in late summer to early fall. Be sure to wait until the fruit is fully ripe but don’t wait so long it becomes overripe and begins to decay.


Check out Oklahoma State University Extension’s fact sheet HLA-6246 Growing Grapes in the Home Garden for more information.

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