Growing grapes in your own backyard can be an enjoyable challenge for any gardener. With healthy grape plants sending out new vines each season, you can yield a plentiful harvest of grapes suitable for making wine or other sweet treats such as jelly or juice. Many varieties of grapes abound, but Concord grapes are especially hardy and dependable for a backyard vineyard. Concord grapes originated in Concord, Massachusetts, in the 19th century. Although many other types of grape cultivars have since become available, Concord grapes remain an old-fashioned favorite among backyard gardeners wishing to grow grapes to make house wine.
Establishing Concord Grape Plants
The growing location you choose for your Concord grapes will need to have full sun and effective drainage. Full sun generally involves between six and eight hours of direct sun every day. Typically, gardeners grow grapes in rows, training them to climb a wood trellis to support the vines. Due to the significant weight of mature grape plants, the trellis you use must be strong and secure to support the weight of the climbing vines. Choose a planting location that has enough room to plant the grapes between six and eight feet apart. Prepare the growing area by testing the soil with a soil meter. For optimal growing, Concord grapes need soil with a pH level of between 5.5 and 6.5. If you find that your soil falls outside of the recommended pH range, you may need to amend it with additives such as lime or aluminum sulfate. Add compost to the soil in the planting area to improve drainage and soil composition. After working the soil and compost well, you will be ready to plant the grapes.
Planting the Grapes
After preparing the soil, it’s time to place grape plants into the soil. For trellis growing, install the trellis system into the growing area by driving the poles deep into the soil. Next, dig holes for the grape plants, spacing each hole between six and eight feet apart and about one foot away from the trellis. Make each hole deep and wide enough to accommodate the root systems of the grape plants. Place the Concord grape plants into the holes and fill soil back into the holes gently to finish planting. Tamp the soil firmly around the grape plants and water them generously.
Care and Maintenance of Grapes
Growing grapes requires approximately an inch of water every 10 days. If sufficient rain falls over this time, supplementary irrigation will not be necessary. However, if you do not receive enough rain, you will need to water your backyard vineyard. When watering grapes, water them approximately every 10 days, and allow a hose to trickle at a slow pace to soak the soil evenly. These bunching grapes also require fertilization throughout the growing season. Fertilize the grapes three times over a 12-week growing season, evenly spacing the fertilizer application times. Follow package recommendations carefully for fertilizer application.
The Concord grape cultivar ripens and becomes ready to harvest in September. You will know it is time to harvest the grapes by watching the plants carefully. When you see the fruit color change to a deep purple and the seeds become a brown color, the grapes are ready to pick. Grapes should be slightly firm yet still somewhat soft. You may notice birds congregating around your ripening grapes. At this time, it will be necessary to harvest the grapes to prevent animal pests in the garden from eating all of your grapes. Pick the grapes by clipping clusters off of the vines with sharp shears. You might also simply pull the clusters gently away from the vines to pick the grapes. Once picked, keep the ripe grapes out of direct sunlight.
Ongoing Maintenance for Concord Grapes
To keep your Concord grape vineyard healthy and thriving, you will need to prune grape stems periodically. In late winter, while the grape plants are still dormant, prune the previous year’s growth. Removing old growth before the grapes begin growing again in the oncoming growing season will enable the grape plants to produce healthy new growth. When pruning, allow between eight and ten buds to remain on each fruiting cane, and remove other growth. It’s also necessary to train the table grapes to climb the trellis. After gently attaching a few canes to the wood trellis, other canes will naturally begin climbing the trellis also.
With attention to the Concord grape’s growing needs and ongoing maintenance, these grape plants should grow and thrive in your backyard for many years. Even novice gardeners should have success growing Concord grapes. You can use your bountiful harvest for wine, juice, jelly, or eating fresh.