The concord is the number one grape for sweet, tangy juice and nutritious snacking. Plus, a new study has shown that grape juice has many of the same health benefits as red wine without the alcohol! And where would a peanut butter and jelly sandwich be without it?
But I’ve found them difficult to get in supermarkets and produce stands. So I decided to grow my own! These mid-season concords are deep purple, rich and sweet. The vigorous vines are tough and easy to prune for prolific fruit production, too.
The method is simple. Grow them in a “T” shape along wires or a trellis. Once a year, prune hard and keep pruning. If it doesn’t look like you’ve taken too much, prune some more- all the way back to about a three foot central cane.
I once ran over a concord with the lawnmower and couldn’t handle all the grapes it produced the next year!
Just make sure you plant it with plenty of full sun in well-drained soil and you’ll be amazed.
Growing Zones: 5-9
This plant is recommended for zones: 5-9
(green area above)
Choosing a location: Grapes with their ability to grow in many places around the world, are a great addition to any garden. Your grapes will love a sunny place with well-draining soil. The vine will be quite satisfied with six to eight hours of sunlight. Good drainage is required to keep your plant “happy” and a soil pH between 5.0-7.0 is best. Avoid areas with soil that may be heavy with clay.
1) Be sure to keep your grape vines moist right up to planting.
2) Dig a small hole about 6 inches wide and 4-6 inches deep. The width of the hole should allow you to spread the roots. If you are planting multiple grape vines dig your holes 6-8 feet apart. In a situation where you have a lot of clay in the soil break up the glazed areas using a shovel.
3) Stand the plant up and carefully pack the soil back into the hole around the vine. Make sure the *graft union is above the soil line by approximately 6 inches. The "graft union" is a lumpy, raised scar that should be just above the surface of the soil. It is caused when the scion and rootstock are united.
4) Water the vine immediately after planting with 3 gallons of water
5) Grapes are essentially a vine that grow upwards along a structure so they will need a "trellis" for proper support and healthy growth. This is typically a wooden structure made of intertwined boards that allow the vines to wrap around them, providing a sturdy support system.
Do not use a single stake (similar to growing tomato plants) as this won’t provide enough support for your vines once they start growing.
Watering: Water regularly for the first year about 1 inch (1 1/2-2 gallons) a week. Directly moisten the roots but avoid spraying or misting the grapes. After the vines are a bit more established they will seldom need watering and mulch will no longer be necessary. Be watchful for leaf drop, this is a warning sign that you may be over watering.
Pollination: Most species of grape are self-fertile but a good rule of "green thumb" is to always plant in pairs. Not only will this assure you a healthy yield of fruit but it will also cover the possibility that the grapes need another separate vine to kick start the fruiting process.
Pruning: Balanced pruning maintains the vine's form, size, vigor, and next season's fruiting wood. Pruning should be done when the vines are dormant in late winter or early spring. Do not prune when vines freeze, because they are brittle and can damage easily. Leaves around the grape clusters can be removed to expose the fruit to sunlight in a short growing season. In your first growing season multiple shoots will begin to grow and the vine may become bushy. Some trim these back to just one or two shoots. Others prefer to let them grow so they may have a better selection to choose from during the following winter's pruning.
During your first dormant pruning you'll select one or two of the best canes and remove all the others. You'll need to remove all lateral canes as well. Your goal is to achieve a balanced vine of just the right amount of leaves to fully ripen the grapes. Too much shade from vigorous leaf growth produces fewer grapes and less desirable grape qualities.
Fertilizing: Young vines may not need any fertilizer for the first two to three years. If fertilizing is necessary, apply a small amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer two to three weeks after planting, keeping it one foot away from the vine's base. Apply only when vines appear to need it and only in early spring. Excess nitrogen can cause plants to become vegetative and not flower. Too much fertilizer can also cause possible winter damage and delay the coloring and ripening of fruit. Periodic soil testing once a year is highly recommended.
Harvesting: Some species of Grapes will ripen at different times of the year than others. (Example: Concord grapes in late September, Niagara’s mid-season in August-September, and Catawba’s in late September-October). Taste is the best determining factor if it's time to harvest or not. When fruit appears, test its ripeness by picking a few grapes from different areas and tasting them. If the grapes are sweet, start picking as they ready for harvesting and eating.
Grapes are certainly a multi-purpose fruit, being used for wine, baked goods, jams, and for eating fresh off the vine. A fantastic plant addition for any fruit lover!
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