By Debbie Oldfield
Have you got room to grow a grape vine? You can grow them along a fence, or over a pergola, trellis or around a deck railing - anywhere you have a few spare metres of room.
They are well worth the effort as there is nothing nicer than freshly-picked grapes from your own garden. They beat store-bought grapes for flavour hands down.
Plant your grape in a nice, sunny spot - north-facing is best if you can manage it, although I have seen grapes growing on the south side of a small fence doing reasonably well. The vine itself will happily grow along lengths of wire or wire fencing or trellis, attaching itself with its tendrils.
Grape vines are deep-rooted and, as such, don't need a lot of additional fertiliser unless your soil is very poor, in which case, amend your soil with some good-quality compost and some well-balanced general fertiliser. I usually chuck in a couple of slow-release fertiliser tablets when I plant, which feeds them for one-two years. After the first year, apply a balanced fertiliser just when the buds begin to emerge in spring.
Ensure the vine receives regular watering, especially over late spring/summer when the fruit is setting. If we get one of our usual very dry summers, then a deep water twice a week is good.
Your grape should be pruned back quite hard every winter when the vine is dormant. There are many ways to train and prune your grape vine. Have a good look online to find a way that suits your setup.
There are many varieties of grapes. Here are a few that we usually sell:
Niagara – (best tasting grape ever IMO) A lovely aromatic super sweet grape that ripens in late Feb/March.
White Diamond – A white grape with good flavour that ripens in March. It is hardy and resistant to fungal problems.
Candice Seedless – A seedless very sweet grape that ripens in March with thin red skin. May need some fungal sprays during the fruiting season.
New York Muscat – Reddish black grapes with a rich Muscat flavour, ripening in March. A hardy vigorous grower.
Buffalo – Has heavy crops of blue/black grapes early in the season with juicy sweet, melting, tender flesh and a marvelous grape aroma. Disease-resistant. Ripens Feb-March
Cardinal – Produces large bunches of red grapes that ripen early in the season. A Californian variety used both as a table grape and for making raisins.