Grow Table Grapes in Your Backyard!

We have been enjoying the fruit of our labor with our grape vines. Yay! I decided to stick by the books as much as possible when it comes to planting and training our vines.


Here are a few benefits of planting table grapes:

  • You and your kids can see the benefit and fruit of a long period of diligent care.
  • You have a tangible and practical example of the vine-related scriptures to learn from.
  • The vines and leaves add beauty to any space!
  • The fruit is good, of course.
  • The vines can be used for decoration elsewhere, like for wreaths or garlands.
  • When you can pickles, adding a piece of grape leaf can intensify the crispness of the pickles.
  • You could make dolmathes! Need to try that.

I got most of my direction on growing grapes from the OSU Extension Service department document called Growing Table Grapes. I HIGHLY recommend it or something similar for your area of the country.

Because it is so thorough and has such great pictures, I’m not going to include all the instructions you need for the care of grapes in this post. Just the highlights that I learned along the way.

Early spring 3d year – example of single curtain trellising and companion planting

When to Plant Table Grapes 

  • Plant now! Early/mid fall or early spring are best. I planted mine mid fall because the vines were on sale at our local nursery. Check yours for sales.

Where and How to Plant

  • Good sun. North-South facing is best, if possible.
  • Good soil! If your soil is mostly clay, like ours is in the NW, replace it with loamy soil and a compost mix. There MUST be good drainage.
  • Be creative. We planted four grape vines in a row by filling in a deep driveway ditch with good soil and setting up a drip hose and timer system.

What to Plant

  • Find out what your nursery carries and ask about the varieties. We were looking for seedless table grapes with good pest resistance. Somehow we ended up with one purple seeded plant anyway. 🙂 
  • Companion planting: Make sure to keep grape beds free from weeds. However, companion plants are a good idea for deterring pests and attracting bees for pollination. We planted clover and wildflowers around our grapes. 

Building a Trellis
Many people love the wandering vines over fences or archways, but they make training and pruning difficult and can effect the quality of your fruit. For small plantings like ours (3-5 plants), an easy method involves stakes and wire.

  • Drive a 6-foot tall metal fence stake/post into the ground 3/4 inches behind each plant.
  • Use 16-guage wire to establish a tight line between the posts, putting the wire toward the top of the posts. This is for a single curtain type training. For other types, see Growing Grapes in Your Home Garden.
Mid-fall, 3d year, several big bunches of grapes… most of which we’ve already eaten. 🙂 

Training Grapes
The most common problem for home grown grapes is weak pruning. It may hurt your feelings to do it, but prune ALL shoots and vines that do not belong. The goal is to establish healthy roots and then funnel all the good stuff to a limited number of grape clusters.

  • First Year (spring to winter): Use ties to train a vine from the plant to grow straight up all the way to the wire. Remove ALL other shoots.
  • Second year: Train two shoots that grow from the trunk to form a “T”. Remove ALL other shoots and vines as well as all flower clusters and suckers. 
  • Third Year: First year of fruit! Allow shoots to grow down from the 1-year old “T” canes. Only allow 1 grape cluster to grow on each shoot. That one hurts, but it’s necessary.
  • Fourth Year: When plants go dormant for the winter, cut the arms and all attached canes off except the most fruitful two that are closest to the trunk. Train those up to become the new “T”. 

It sounds complicated, but taken step-by-step with good directions, it is really fairly simple. Reading OSU’s Growing Table Grapes really is a must, especially because of the great pictures they have to help with cutting placement! They’ve recently updated it as well. We’ve shared our grapes with neighbors and spent these first days of fall picking grapes as we unload from the car. Pretty cool!

I only wish we had more space to plant so we could share more and preserve some!



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