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Horticulture and Home Pest News
Horticulture & Home Pest News is filled with articles on current horticulture, plant care, pest management, and common household pests written by Iowa State University Extension specialists in the Departments of Entomology, Horticulture and Plant Pathology.

Planting Grapes

This article was published originally on 4/26/2013

 The grapevine is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world.  Grapes can be eaten fresh or processed into jam, jelly, juice, or wine.  Home gardeners can successfully grow grapes in Iowa.  Basic requirements include a good planting site, hardy varieties (cultivars), and proper culture. 
 
Site Selection
 
Grapevines grow on a wide range of soil types.  Well-drained soils produce the best growth and yields.  Avoid soils that are persistently wet during the growing season.  Highly fertile soils are not essential.  Grapevines tolerate a wide pH range.  Grapes prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5, but grow well with a pH from 5.5 to 7.5. 
 
Because of space restrictions, planting sites are often limited in the home garden.  Select a site that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun each day.  Avoid sites shaded by trees and shrubs. 
 
Also consider the possibility of herbicide drift.  Grapes are very susceptible to injury from 2,4-D, dicamba, and similar broadleaf herbicides.  In rural areas, select sites protected by large trees (windbreaks) or topography. In urban areas, inform neighbors of the location of your grape planting. If your neighbors control their broadleaf weeds with broadleaf herbicides, encourage them to apply these materials to their lawns in fall. Fall applications provide the best broadleaf weed control and are less likely to injure grapevines. 
 
Plant Material and Sources
 
Purchase dormant, bare-root grapevines from a reputable garden center, nursery,  or mail-order company.  Choose plants free of known viruses and diseases.  A list of suggested grape cultivars for Iowa is included at the end of this article.  When selecting grape cultivars, consider winter hardiness, time of ripening, and intended use (fresh, jam or jelly, juice, or wine). 
 
Gardeners in northern Iowa must select cultivars that possess excellent winter hardiness and ripen early.  Mid- or late-maturing cultivars may not ripen fully in northern areas because of the shorter growing season. 
 
Planting
 
The best time to plant dormant, bare-root grapevines in Iowa is early spring (late March and April).  If planting must be delayed for several days after the plants arrive from the nursery, moisten the packing material around their roots, place the plants in a plastic bag, and store in a cool garage or refrigerator. 
 
Before planting dormant grapevines, soak their roots in water for two to three hours.  Make the planting holes slightly larger than the root systems of the plants.  Set plants into the soil at about the same level they grew in the nursery.  The soil line mark and root initials indicate this level. Backfill with the original soil from the hole.  Firm soil around the roots and construct a basin around each plant.  
 
Water well.  Grapevines require approximately 1 inch of water per week through the first growing season.  Water plants every 7 to 10 days during dry weather. 
 
Plant grapevines 6 to 8 feet apart within the row.  Plant vigorous cultivars such as Concord 8 feet apart.  Less vigorous cultivars may be planted 6 feet apart.  Space rows at least 9 feet apart. 
 
After planting a grapevine, cut its strongest cane back to two or three healthy buds; completely remove all other canes.  If a trellis is not used during the first growing season, set a 5- to 6-foot stake into the soil near each vine and train the new growth to it.  Tie the shoots loosely to the stake to avoid girdling the stems.  Support the new growth until it reaches the 6 foot wire on the grape trellis.  
 
Suggested Grape Cultivars for Iowa
 

Cultivar Color Ripening Season Principle Use
American Types
Van Buren Blue/black Early Table, wine
Buffalo Blue/black Early to mid Table, juice, jam/jelly
Price Blue/black Early to mid Table, juice, jam/jelly
Fredonia Blue/black Mid Table, juice, jam/jelly
Steuben Blue/black Mid Table, wine
Delaware Red Mid Wine
Niagara* White Late Juice, jam/jelly, wine, table
Concord* Blue/black Late Juice, jam/jelly, wine, table
Catawba* Red Late Wine, juice, jam/jelly
       
Table Grape Types
Mars* Blue Early Table (seedless)
Reliance* Red Early Table (seedless)
Edelweiss White Early Table (seeded)
Swenson Red Red Early Table (seeded), wine
Jupiter* Blue Early to mid Table (seedless)
Marquis White Mid Table (nearly seedless)
Vanessa* Red Mid Table (seedless)
Swenson White White Late Table (seeded), wine
       
Interspecific (French) Hybrids
La Crescent White Early Wine
Leon Millot* Blue/black Early Wine
Marechal Foch* Blue/black Early Wine
Baco Noir* Blue/black Early to mid Wine
Brianna White Early to mid Wine
Marquette Blue/black Early to mid Wine
Seyval Blanc* White Early to mid Wine
de Chaunac* Blue/black Mid Wine
       
Cultivars denoted by an * are not suitable for northern Iowa. They should be planted only in central and southern areas of the state. Remaining cultivars can be grown throughout Iowa.