Can I Grow Grapes in my Garden?
29th December 2021
Yes! Though we might think of grapevines, and especially the activity of grape harvesting, coming from warmer countries and famous wine regions like Champagne / Prosecco / Cava, it is actually not uncommon to see them here in England too. Whether you are after that photogenic climbing vine that offers the perfect shade for summer or you are after picking and enjoying your own grapes, there are many options for successful growing experiences even with the fairly unreliable weather we get here.
On the commercial growing side, there are now approximately 500 vineyards across the country each producing improving in quality wines (mostly sparkling) with many located in southern counties. There are countless fields full of grapevines across the country with highly experienced winemakers giving us medal winning wines to choose from.
When it comes to growing grapevines at home then we can be quite confident that we can likewise be as successful as the professionals. If it is simply grape harvesting then yes we can grow grapes in our gardens when we follow some basic guidelines:
- Can I plant grape seeds? Well yes you can and if you grow them indoors or within a greenhouse initially then there is no reason why you can not plant a grape seed and see the fruits of your green finger labour.
- What grapes (grapevine) can I plant in England? We can split grapevines in to two sections which as ‘wine grapes’ and ‘dessert grapes’. There are many varieties you can choose from that will be white (light green) or black (very dark red) and it is advisable that you check which will suit your climate (location) then best. Many garden centres will stock grapevines so it is best to ask their advice for your location.
- Where to plant grapevines? Outdoors is the most popular location and this can be either in large pots or in the ground. You can also plant vines in greenhouse / conservatory. A well drained soil is the best place to plant them and during the dormant months for the grapevine (October to March). Choose a spot that is warm, sheltered, and receives good sunlight – avoid windy locations.
- How to plant grapevines: They will ideally already be of around 30cm in height and the stem at least pencil size thickness. The best months for planting are February and March. Place them in to the ground (ideally with general purpose fertiliser) and be sure to unpack the roots when replacing back the soil. Have in place a support system for the vines so they can be trained. If planting multiple vines you should give them a spacing of 1 metre between each.
- How to maintain grapevines: As with many plants, it is all about the maintenance from watering to pruning. Though grapevines are known for being quite robust plants and perform better when challenged, they do require care and attention as they are also quite vulnerable. Some grapevines are known to live up to 100 years or more though most cases will see them with a lifetime of 25-35 years (especially for harvesting of grapes). Make sure that you train your grapevine upwards initially and then how you wish from there (always remember that the more stems / leaves you have then the more energy the vine will have to distribute to them over your grapes). Pruning is important as the vine grows so that you can steer the vine in the direction you require (removing unwanted shoots) and removal of a % of leaves will also put attention / energy to growth. Water at least weekly and especially during dry months. Keep a watch out for fungal diseases and insects which will mostly be evident on the leaves and grapes.
Common Problems – From RHS.org.uk
“Grapevines are prone to fungal diseases including powdery mildew (especially in hot, dry weather or in crowded sites with poor air circulation), grey mould (Botrytis) and downy mildew.
Birds and wasps can severely damage crops. Other potential pests include brown scale, woolly vine or currant scale and the fruit fly spotted wing drosophila (SWD).
Vines are also susceptible to nutrient deficiencies, particularly magnesium deficiency, and the physiological disorder shanking.”
Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.