Evidence shows that grapes were first cultivated 6,000 to 8,000 years ago with the oldest winery being discovered in Armenia dating to 4,000 BC. Today about 72 million tonnes of grapes are produced worldwide on 25million acres of land which is being expanded at roughly 2% a year.
We tend to link grapes with wine and that is the most common use with 71% of the world’s harvest being used in this way but a further 27% are sold as fresh fruit and 2% are dried and so become raisons and sultanas. The fresh fruit is snacked on and traditionally given as gifts to hospital patients but many are turned into jams, jellies, juice and even vinegar.
So given the popularity of this fruit and the many uses it has it does seem strange that so few grape vines are grown in our gardens. They are not difficult to grow and make a wonderful climber. Grape vines are not too fussy about soil type as long as it is free draining. What they are fussy about is their position – they must be in full sun. Some grape vines are happy being grown in a patio container and some can even be grown indoors.
There are several different ways to train a grape vine but they all result in a strong open framework, often achieved using wire supports. This open framework improves ventilation and aids pollination.
One thing that it is important is that grape vines are watered regularly. Allow the top 2” of soil to dry out between watering and do keep your watering consistent. Allow the grape vine to become too dry and the fruits will split.
Many of us shy away from plants that need pruning as we’re worried that we may not do it correctly. Grapes require heavy pruning when dormant in the winter and with a little practise this becomes both simple and enjoyable. The key is to prune so that maximum sunlight and air will reach the bunches of fruit.
So, growing your own grapes really isn’t difficult. There are just a few important guidelines to follow:
- Choose a well-drained sunny position
- Be consistent with your watering
- Feed throughout the growing season
- Mulch in autumn
- Prune hard in winter
A browse on the Dobies website will help you to choose a suitable grape vine. To make things easy we’ve even got a Grow Your Own Vineyard solution, click here for details.