SaferGro’s Homegrown Wine Grapes Guide

Imagine it: you’re sitting in your backyard enjoying a summer dinner illuminates by the setting sun. Around you, gorgeous grapevines delicately dangle down giving you your own slice of Soma. Bring the peacefulness and fun of wine country to your backyard with your own home vineyard. Growing your own grapes at home are easier than you think. Today we’re covering tips and suggestions to grow backyard wine grapes.


How to Prepare for Growing

Selecting a Variety

Grapevine varieties are generally divided into table grapes and wine grapes, although some can be grown for both uses. American cultivars typically have the highest amount of vegetative growth, followed by French-American, and European (Vinifera) varieties. American, French-American hybrids, and European cultivars differ in fruiting wood.

Native American Grape Varieties

While not as well known as their counterparts across the Atlantic, American Wine Grapes are worth the consideration to grow in your yard as they are more likely to be native to your area. Because of this they may grow better in your home garden.

    French-American Grape Hybrids

    A cross between American and European grapes, French-American hybrids combine quality of European grapes and the wild spices of American grapes. This makes the hybrid a versatile option in many geographical areas.

    European Grape Vine Varieties

    Originally from the middle East, European varieties are the most widely known grapes in the world. European grapes have a very diverse collection in pigment and flavor varieties. Keep in mind, however, their successes are limited to their susceptibility to cold weather, insects, and diseases compares to American and French-American varieties.


    Growing Considerations

    After choosing the grape variety, the next step is to prepare the area for your grapes to grow. Just like planting other plant light, soil, and climate are critical factors. Furthermore, spacing and pruning are especially important to consider during your preparation.

    Light: Grapevines do best with full sun exposure for about 7-8 hours per day in a wide range of soil types.

    Soil: Grapes grow the best in well drained sandy soil acidic with a pH of 5.0 - 6.5. It is important to make sure the ground is free of weeds and that organic matter like mulch is incorporated into the soil.

    Climate: If you’re growing in a northern region, plant your grapevine in early spring after the last frost. For a southern region, plan your vines in the fall.

    Orientation: Planting grapevines should be done north to south in rows oriented to maximize sun exposure.

    Spacing: Spacing between rows can be as marginal as 8ft or up to 12 ft for wider trellis systems. Grapes should be planted on a slope to ensure they have good air circulation.

    Dormant Pruning

    Dormant pruning is extremely important grape production. By doing this you maintain a training system where you can select the fruiting wood and manipulate the potential on the quantity of fruit produced. Fruit is only produced on shoots on shoots growing from one-year old canes. Therefore, new canes must be produced annually to maintain a consistent production of fruit.

    Normally, dormant pruning is carried out in winter. It is easier at this time because the first frost causes leaves to fall, thereby exposing the woody canes. Warmer regions, such as tropical and subtropical regions may have vines that are not completely dormant. Because of this, vines may have to be pruned when covered in leaves. For these areas, it is best to perform dormant pruning sometime between February and March.

    Summer Pruning

    Summer pruning removes unproductive vines that block sunlight from the young and emerging fruit canes. To do it properly be sure to cut the side shoots and lower leaves around grape bunches late in the season. This ensures sunlight reaches grapes as they mature. When pruning be sure each shoot has about 14 to 16 leaves and is receiving full sunlight.


    Be sure to keep your garden tools and equipment clean, especially after a harvest, as this will help with disease management. The tools that we recommend you use to prepare for grape growing are:

    • Loppers
    • Hand pruners
    • Hand saws


    How to Care for Your Plant

    Now that we’ve covered how to decide which grapes are best for you, its time to go deeper as to what will make your grapes successful. The foundation for quality grape growth here are fertilizers and pest controls. The two are essential in and plant growth but are especially important for long-term growing plants like wine grapes.


    Nitrogen: Nitrogen is vital at three different points including when the initial onset of growth restarts, after bud break, and during the emergence of fruiting.

    Phosphorous: Phosphorous promotes root development and helps build resistance to diseases as well as a variety of other environmental factors such including drought.

    Potassium: Potassium is extremely beneficial for plant vigor and yield. It promotes early setting and ripening.

    Secondary Plant Nutrients

    Calcium: Calcium is essential in the root development of grapevines and is a key component in the cellular and enzymatic processes in grapes.

    Magnesium: Magnesium is a central component of chlorophyll, the molecule responsible for giving plants their green color.

    Sulfur: Sulfur serves as primary factor in the aroma of certain grape varieties though volatile sulfur compounds. Sulfur is a major component in thiols, which together are strongly leaked to providing the taste and aroma of fruit and wine.


    Boron: Boron contributes to the flowering and ripening of the fruit.

    Iron: Iron is required for the formation of chlorophyll, which gives plants their green color. Iron also serves as an activator of the biochemical process such as cellular respiration and photosynthesis.

    Manganese: Manganese is a key factor in photosynthesis as it assists iron in chlorophyll formation.

    Zinc: Zinc is vital in several enzymes and does many things including controlling the synthesis of indoleacetic acid, an important plant growth regulator.

    Copper: Copper influences numerous enzymatic processes and is an important component in chlorophyll.

    Molybdenum:  Molybdenum is a component of nitrate-reductase and nitrogenase enzymes. Without molybdenum, plants cannot transform nitrate nitrogen into amino acids.

    Pest Control and Disease Management

    Two of the most effective methods for disease control are canopy management and pesticides. Canopy management such as pruning and shoot thinning allows abundant air and sun exposure to your grape clusters and shoots. Pesticides, meanwhile, provide preventative maintenance as long as a fungicide is applied on a regular basis.

    Common Pests in Grapes

    The most common pests in a vineyard are grape leafhoppers (Erythroneura elegantula), Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica), and grape berry moths (Paralobesia viteana). There are also several types of mites such as rust (Calepitrimerus vitis) and spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) which often feed on the grape crop as well. Our own Pest Out® and BIOREPEL® are great products in reducing many of these grape pests. Here are some of the most common grapevine diseases that can wreak havoc on your favorite snack or would-be wine:

    Powdery Mildew (Erysiphe necator)

    Symptoms:  White powdery growth on leaves and fruit. Yellow patches may be found on top surfaces of leaves.

    Manganese: Manganese is a key factor in photosynthesis as it assists iron in chlorophyll formation.

    Characteristics: This disease favors mild temperatures and high humidity.

    Management: Provide vines with good air circulation and full sun exposure.

    Recommended Product(s): Mildew Cure®, Phosgard Copper 5-20-0


    Pierce’s Disease (Xylella fastidiosa)

    Symptoms: Yellow to red leaf edges; leaf dropping; dry fruit and shriveled.

    Characteristics: Sharpshooters and spittlebugs.

    Management: Use chemical control in areas near the plantation to reduce shapshooters; remove symptomatic vines while dormant.


    Downy Mildew (Plasmopara viticola)

    Symptoms: The leaves contain circle-shaped yellowish discolorations and oil spots. White spots can be found mainly on the lower leaf surface which turn brown with time. Infected shoots will curl and white spots will appear on the stem. Young grape bunch will exhibit initial white down which quickly turns brown and withers. Infected young berries will stop growing, harden, and may turn purple.

    Management: Use an approved insecticide. We recommend using our Fosphite®, an excellent resource. Make sure to apply at the underside of the leaves and the back of the bunches, and to apply before to onset of any infection events for best results.


    Black Rot (Guignardia bidwellii)

    Symptoms: Brown lesions on the leaves that develop black dots. Grapes affected will harden and turn black while remaining on the vine.

    Characteristics: This disease commonly occurs in rainy weather.

    Management: Mummified fruit must be removed during dormant pruning; application of fungicides can help with disease control.


    Your own home winery is closer than you think! Stay updated with us here at Safergro for more information going forward on how to care for and cultivate your own successful backyard vineyard.


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