Do you want to grow grapes?

Are you thinking about growing grapes?

Below are a few things to consider before planting or growing grapes.
This is only a general guide, please seek extenstive information to obtain the knowledge necessary to grow grapes sucessfully.
Variety Selection

There are several varieties that have been tested for our area and are recommended as either commercially viable, or just a great backyard treat. Here is some information about some of those varieties to help you make an informed choice on what is best for you. Remember.. Not ALL varieties are covered here…just some of the more popular choices, and new varieties are always being tested. Keep up to date by attending Association meeting and classes provided by Essie Fallahi at the University of Idaho research center in Parma

Alborz – Seedless / Possibly Commercially Viable DESCRIPTION – Dark red berry with a tender skin. Tasty and crunchy berry. Currently the most widely planted table grape in Idaho for commercial production. Under the right management techniques it has a medium size berry and can have good production. Alborz is fairly cold tolerant and is harvested between early and late September.

Emerald – Seedless / Possibly Commercially Viable DESCRIPTION – Green/yellow with a tender skin. A medium to large size berry that has large and attractive clusters. This variety is extremely susceptible to powdery mildew and somewhat susceptible to sunburn, so efforts must be made to prevent this. Generally Harvested between September 10 and October 15.

Autumn Royal – Seedless / Possibly Commercially Viable DESCRIPTION – Large sized berries that are crunchy, firm and flavorful. Color from deep purple to black. Large clusters that may be harvested from September 15 to late October.

“Ralli” or “Anahita” – Seedless / Possibly Commercially Viable DESCRIPTION – Medium to large size berry with a bright red color that will become darker the longer it is left on the vine. Medium size, attractive clusters. May be harvested between August 20 and September 20 . Can be susceptible to spring frost.

Red Globe – Seeded / Possibly Commercially Viable DESCRIPTION – Very Large red berry with a tender skin. These may be harvested between September 20 and October 20.

Italia – Seeded / Possibly Commercially viable for Export DESCRIPTION – Green grape that is large, tender and flavorful with an oblong shape. May be harvested between September 10 and October 15.

Kashishi – Seeded / Possibly Commercially Viable for Export DESCRIPTION – Large berry size, tender skin, oblong shape and beautiful maroon color. Harvest between September 10 and October 15

Jupiter – Seedless / Best for Backyards with Commercial Possiblities DESCRIPTION – Medium size, tender slip skin berries that are deep black. Their distinctive flavor sets them apart from your typical store bought grapes. Jupiter is extremely productive and cold hardy. General harvest is between September 1 and September 20

Princess – Seedless / Best for backyards with Commercial Possibilities DESCRIPTION – Medium to large size, flavorful, tender berries that are a light green color. Princess has large cluster sizes, that is, if you can get the fruit to set. Research is currently being done to solve this problem. If the variety can show consistent fruit set, it would be very commercially viable.

Fantasy – Seedless / Best for Backyards DESCRIPTION – Large, firm, crunchy, flavorful berries with a deep black color. It has a moderately low, non-reliable productivity in our area. May be harvested from September 1 and September 20.

Saturn – Seedless / Best for Backyards DESCRIPTION – Medium size, red to dark red berries with small clusters and flavorful berries. This variety is considered seedless, but may have small underdeveloped seeds, especially in hot weather.

Neptune – Seedless / Best for backyards DESCRIPTION – A medium to large, green berry with a slip skin (this means that the skin slips easily away from the grape). It has a muscat flavor, and may be harvested between September 5 and October 5

Other Varieties

Canadice – Medium size, medium red berry with slip skin. Best for backyards Challenger – Large, Dark red berry with a pleasant taste. Best for backyards Concord – Medium size, Black berry with a slip skin. Very hardy. Best for backyards. Great for jams and juice. Concord seedless – Medium size, black berry with a semi-slip skin. Best for backyards. Great for juice and Jams Delight – Small to medium size, Yellow berry with a tender skin Einset – Medium size, red berry with a tender skin. Exotic – Large size, Black grape. Tasty with a tender skin. Fiesta – Yellow berry. Flame – Medium size, dark red berry with tender skin Fresno – Small to medium size, Yellow berry with a tender skin Glenora – Medium size, Black berry with tender skin Himrod – Medium size, greenish-yellow berry with tender skin Interlaken – Small size, yellow berry with a slip skin Lakemont – small to medium size, greenish-yellow berry with tender skin Mars – medium size, Black berry with semi-slip skin Pasargad – Medium size, medium red berry with a tender skin Reliance – medium size, light red berry with a semi-slip skin Romulus – small size, yellow berry with a tender skin Ruby – Small to medium size, Black berry with tender skin Vanessa – Medium size, light red berry with tender skin


Site Selection and Preparation

When selecting a site for your soon to be vineyard, there are several steps you can take to ensure that you have the best chance for success.

When selecting a site, try to find a gentle southern slope with good air drainage and a low chance of frost. If you imagine air as water, it will be easy to visualize where the “pools” of cold air will collect. Cold air, like water travels to the lowest spot it can find. Planting in these areas increases your chances of damage by frost and freeze. Also depending on your water table, these low lying places could be too wet for the plants roots.

Have your soil tested by a professional, or take samples yourself and deliver them to a lab for analysis. Ideally, your should have your soil tested for mineral and nutrient content and nematode infestation. Planting your vines in ground with harmful nematodes, or ground that is nutrient or mineral deficient guarantees many problems down the road. Your ground can be fumigated if harmful nematodes are found, and minerals and fertilizers spread to get the correct balance. If your ground must be fumigated, make sure the fumigant is completely gone before planting.

The following are testing labs in our area. Western Laboratories {Parma, Idaho} Uof I analytical lab {Moscow, Idaho} Albion Laboratories {Clearfield, Utah}

Test results can be confusing at best so be sure to ask for help by someone with experience growing grape vines to decipher the test results.


Sun – ensure the area has full sun for the majority of the day from March through September. This will promote a thick healthy canopy which allows the vine to support the grapes it produces.

Water – If you have insufficient water, your crop will suffer and perhaps your vines will die. Water should be delivered uniformly in the vineyard so as not to drown some plants and starve others. There are several ways to irrigate your vineyard : Overhead sprinklers, furrow irrigation, and drip systems. Talk with experienced growers to decide which method is best for you.

Soil – Grapes will grow and survive in almost any type soil, but they will suffer. Suffering makes for distinct flavor but not a beautiful and bountiful crop. A heavy sand soil will require more water and deplete your water allocation. A heavy clay soil will absorb little water and often creates a “pot” with no drainage, drowning your plants. Make sure you have a healthy soil with plenty of nutrients available to the plants.

Ground Work

The ground should be ripped to depth of 30 or more inches. Ripping ensures the ground is not compacted which improves water drainage and softens the ground for root development. After ripping have the ground worked to break any clods of dirt and smooth the ground. Talk with the company supplying your fertilizers or chemicals to determine at what point in your ground preparation to incorporate what is needed.

Vine Start Orders

Select the varieties of grape that you would like to plant, and make sure to order your starts in plenty of time. Many local propagators like to have orders in by February at the latest. California cuttings may have to be ordered as early as December. And remember, it is first come first serve, so the earlier you order, the better chance you have of getting exactly what you want as well as good quality. Discuss your options with as many people as possible before making a decision. You may have a choice of dormant cuttings, rooted cuttings, and greenhouse stock, with each having an increasing price tag. You can also choose to propagate yourself, if you already have an established vineyard, and the variety is open for self propagation and is not copyrighted. The Vineyard supplies and Services section has advertisements from local propagators.

Vineyard Design Considerations

Now is also a great time to decide how your vineyard will be designed. There are several different types of trellising systems to choose from, and several different row and plant spacing to consider. Visit the vineyards of other, established growers for ideas, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Some of the best places to get information on vineyard design is to attend the field day, and annual classes provided at the U of I research center in Parma where they have been testing different designs since 1989. They can help give you ideas for the design that is best for you. Also, consider how you will water, and the prevalent direction of the wind in your area. Designing a vineyard that is perpendicular to prevalent winds can quickly lead to trellis and plant damage.

Planting and Maintenance

You have selected your site, and prepared the ground. Now you are ready to plant.

When do I plant? / How should I plant? / What should I plant?

Dormant cutting, not rooted – Two or more cuttings should be planted in each hole to increase success. A single cutting planted per hole has a lower success rate. When buying straight dormant cutting you plan to root yourself, you should look for healthy looking cuttings with at least 4 bud sections on it that is between 12″ and 16″ long. Refuse smaller, weak looking sticks or ones that have fewer than 3 buds. Remember that what food is stored in these cuttings is all that the plant will have to survive on until it develops a root structure. These cuttings may be dipped in a rooting hormone ( Hormodin 3 has been commonly used here, available in a powdered or liquid. Follow instructions carefully or get advice from an experienced propagator.) to increase rooting success. You may plant in early April by simply pushing the cuttings into the prepared soil leaving only one bud (maximum of 2 buds) out of the dirt. Be careful not to damage the cutting by trying to force it into soil that is too hard or has not been properly prepared. Make sure that the ground is kept moist to help with rooting.

Dormant rooted or calloused cutting – Since they have already been rooted or calloused, chances of success increase. A rooted cutting means that the stick will have a good number of healthy roots growing from the bottom. A calloused cutting is on which there are very few or no roots, but a tender whitish material from which the roots will grow has developed. Usually 1 -2 cuttings per hole is sufficient. Dig a hole approximately 18” deep and once again leave only 1 – 2 buds out of the ground. If the cutting is rooted, make sure to mound some dirt on the bottom of the hole and set the plants on top so the roots are well spread out. If the cutting is only calloused you may used a smaller hole and carefully push the dirt in around it. Pushing a calloused cutting directly into the dirt as you would an unrooted or uncalloused cutting will damage the callous and inhibit root growth. Remember, since the cutting only has a limited supply of stored energy to work with, none should be wasted on having to repair unnecessary damage. Once again, keep the ground moist so the plants have access to water. Usually early April is also the time to plant these.

Greenhouse plants – These are active, living plants, and planted and taken care of properly should have a high success rate. One plant per hole is sufficient. Just make sure to provide plenty of water to reduce shock and stress (but don’t drown them) and be SURE to plant after all danger of frost is over. (Start looking for this to happen somewhere in the middle of May, but remember the last frosts for the area could come much earlier or much later. This is where a little research on the average last frost dates, watching the weather reports and talking to local farmers is very helpful in trying to figure out the best time to plant your green starts.) When buying greenhouse plants….green on top isn’t always an indicator of health. Some cuttings may have no green, but will be showing healthy roots growing from the bottom of the pots. Look for leaves that are a bright, healthy green color. This shows that they are healthy and have plenty of nutrients available to them. Yellowing leaves show a lack of nutrients. Demand healthy plants from the greenhouse. Refuse to accept plants that are unhealthy or nutrient deficient. At the price you pay for greenhouse plants, you should see a very high survival rate (assuming you do everything right once you get them home). Once again dig a hole that is 2 to 3 times wider and deeper that the container the plant is received in. Remove the container from the plant, being VERY careful not to damage the tender, new roots. Immediately plant them, gently backfilling the hole as not to damage the roots. Give water right away to help reduce stress and transplant shock Make SURE to remove the container the cutting was greenhoused in. Even though some may be touted as biodegradable, the plant will suffer.

Planting is finished : Now What? – So your plants are in the ground, and have sufficient moisture. Now is the time to decide if grow tubes are right for you. Grow tubes are used to accelerate growth after planting. Grow tubes are made from paper, plastics, or other materials and vary in length from 6 to 24 inches. When grow tubes are used, the vines grow rapidly to reach the light at the top of the tube. The tubes also help to protect against rabbit and other rodent damage as well as offer some protection against herbicide damage. Since the grow tubes to not allow the plant to naturally “harden off” (to prepare for winter) it is recommended that the tubes are removed as soon as the plant reaches the top, or by mid July at the latest, or not used at all. If you use grow tubes, they must be removed from the plant gradually to avoid shocking or “burning” the plant.

Am I watering too little? Or too Much? – To see if the amount of water in the ground is sufficient dig a hole 12 to 18 inches deep. Take a handful of the moist soil and squeeze it with your hand. If you can make a ball with the moist soil that doen not easily fall apart, the mosture is probably sufficient. If the ball is muddy there is too much moisture. If the soil disperses so that you cannot form a ball, you have too little moisture. You can also purchase soil moisture meters to determine the amount of moisture in your soil. But remember that water requirements will vary with many factors such as : Vine Spacing, Temperature, Wind Speed, Soil Type, Stage a grape development and variety planted. Visit with a knowledgable consultant to determine what your water needs are.

First Year – Let the vines grow wild. Do not attempt to train or cut your vines this year. The plants will take on a bushy shape, which is great for root system development. If you prepared your ground prior to planting, no further fertilization should be necessary. Stop watering your plants early the first year, to allow them to harden off sufficiently before the cold weather. Late August is usually the last time you should water, only giving a later season drink if they are showing signs of stress due to lack of irrigation. It is always good practice to put enough clean sawdust around each plant to cover about 5-6 inches of the bottom of the vine just before the first severe frost is forecast. This should help to protect at least a couple of the buds on the vine to grow the following year. Always remove the sawdust in the spring after the danger of frost is over to eliminate hiding places for hungry rodents.

Second year – Now that you have developed a strong root system, you are ready to train the plant. Pruning your plant. Around early to mid March, all shoots (all growth) except for one or two strong, well placed shoots are removed. This is where the classes presented by Dr. Esmaeil Fallahi are extremely important because you will learn where the best cuts are made, how to cut for the least damage, how to identify which shoots to leave, and how to tell the difference between a dormant shoot, and a dead one…a healthy shoot and a sick one. Once your shoots are between 12 to 18 inches long, choose 2 – 4 healthy shoots and tie them loosely to your support cane. Remove all other shoots. The reason you select more than one shoot is in case you break one or more, or damage it in the process of training. After tying the shoots, and inspecting for damage, cut off all but one or two of the healthiest shoots (the number of shoots you leave will be determined by the type of trunk system you choose…a single or a double). These will be your permanent trunks. As the Trunk(s) grow, tie it loosely to the cane every couple of weeks to train a straight trunk and to prevent breaking. After the initial trunk selection, do not cut the vine again for the remainder of the year. All shoots that will develop leaves are important to the health of the vine.

Now what you are waiting for is the main trunk (on a single trunk system) to grow approximately 12 to 18 inches above the wire that you will train your cordon arms on. What is a “cordon” ? …….. Imagine that the plant you are trying to create will be shaped like the letter “T” as a finished product. The up and down part of the “T” is the main trunk. The crossbar on the top….the side to side part…. is known as the arms, or the cordon arms of the plant. This “cordon” is the part that is supported by a wire in your trellising) So…grow the main trunk to about 18 to 24 inches above the wire that you will form your cordon arms. Once you have achieved this…..cut the main trunk to about 5 inches below the cordon wire. The main trunk will then produce two more arms just below where you cut, and you will train one each way to make the top of the “T”. Now, depending on the amount of growth you receive, and the variety of plant you have….you may not be able to train the arms until the third year.

Into the great beyond – is where a class or two…or consultation from a professional becomes necessary. You are beginning to deal with the structure of your plant that you are hoping will produce for many years. There is no “quick” lessons or easy ways to tell this. If you have reached this point without already having attended classes or had consultation from a professional, Now is the time. Whether planning on commercial production, or just a backyard garden you must learn how to properly train and prepare your plants for production, and this technique can vary with each variety. You are getting into the land of spraying gibberellic acid, girdling your plants, cluster cutting and thinning, canopy thinning and more. If you have made it to this point and are serious about table grapes…now is the time to further your education.



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