Grapes are popular for home plantings because they can be used in so many ways. Properly managed grapevines also add an attractive landscape feature to home planting during the growing season.
Grapes can be grown throughout Oklahoma. Bunch grapes are best suited to the western side of the state because the relatively low humidity helps prevent disease problems. Muscadine grapes are not adapted to the northern part of the state because it gets too cold in the winter.
The number of grapevines to plant depends on how you will use the grapes. Two muscadine vines will provide the family with all the fresh grapes they will need. Wine makers may wish to plant as many as 20 bunch grapevines to supply enough wine or juice.
While there are many varieties of grapes available it is important to select the variety best suited for our climate and soil. Another important factor in choosing grape varieties is how the fruit will be used. Grapes may be used for fresh eating, raisins, wine, juice, jams and jellies and other cooked foods.
Many of the conventional varieties of grapes we find in the grocery store are not suited for Oklahoma. The Concord variety is not recommended because the fruit in the cluster does not ripen at the same time.
Grapes can be grown on a wide range of soil types, as long as there is adequate drainage and moisture retention. The site must be in full sun, but the rows should run north and south to allow the plant to gather the most sunlight. Additional windbreaks may be necessary to prevent tangling and breaking of the canes.
The recommended time to plant grapes is February 1 to March 20. Grapes may be planted in the fall if they are planted before the first frost. Fall planted grapes should establish a good root system over the winter, giving them an advantage over spring-planted grapes.
If it doesn’t rain enough to adequately water the vines during any two weeks of the growing season, then additional water should be applied to wet the soil to a dept of 12 inches. This will usually require about one inch of irrigated water. Be careful because excessive watering can cause the roots to rot.
Before growth begins in the spring, apply a complete fertilizer at a rate of one-quarter cup of fertilizer per plant. Fertilizer should be broadcast in a circle from about 6 inches from the trunk. Be careful not to get fertilizer against the trunk or on the leaves. Fertilizers should be watered in to eliminate root burn from the feretilizer.
All flowers should be removed the first three springs after the vines are planted. If fruit is left to develop, the growth and vigor of the vine will be reduced.
Training and pruning grapes take a little practice but can be easily learned. The first year put a stake beside each plant and a heavy post every 6 to 10 plants. Leave one or two buds above the soil line at planting and allow all growth to develop the first year. Do not try to tie or prune the plants their first season.
The second year cut each plant back to 2 buds before they start their growth. As the shoots start to grow vigorously, select the best one and tie it to the stake. Install trellis wire rigidly between the posts at 72 and 42 inches from the soil. Let one branch develop in each direction along the wire.
The third year before the canes begin to grow cut each branch back to 2 to 3 buds. Allow no more than one cluster of grapes per cane to grow for this year.
For subsequent years prune established grapes heavily. Leaving too many buds will ruin the quality and size of the grapes.