If you enjoy wine, why not harvest your own grapes? Growing grapes organically is a healthy and fun accomplishment that almost anyone can do, even in a small backyard. Grape vines are unique landscaping features that are nice to look at and functional. Follow the guidelines below to begin your organic vineyard today!
Step 1: Plan the layout of the vineyard. Grapes require a minimum of eight hours of sun daily. The area should be clear, with no trees or other obstructions to provide shade during the day. Soil must be well-aerated, not too stony, and accessible to a source of water. In terms of size, plan for at least 120 grape vines. This will produce a 60-gallon barrel of wine. Grapes can be grown in a 1/16 of an acre area, the same size as a 50×50 square foot backyard.
Step 2: Select the variety of grapes to use. If you are growing grapes strictly for making wine, consider the climate. Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Merlot grapes are popular in moderate climates (approximately 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit). In a hotter climate, such as between 85 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, try Zinfandel and Cabernet grapes. In 50 to 60 degree Fahrenheit climates, Gewurztraminer and Riesling grapes do well.
Step 3: Plant your vineyard during early spring or in the fall. Remove all weeds from the area. Test soil for correct pH and nutrient levels.
Step 4: Build a trellis system to support irrigation lines and grape vines. Plan for four rows of trellises and space them between six and seven feet apart so the vines are spaced apart by four to six feet. A drip irrigation system is easy to build by installing drip irrigation tubes onto the trellis system and connecting these to an underground PVC pipe that delivers the water.
Step 5: Apply organic fertilizer to the vineyard regularly. Prune grape vines after planting so they will climb onto their trellises. After the vines become established, prune them every three years to prevent overextending.
Step 6: Water vines daily and keep the vineyard free of insects, fungus, and weeds. Check soil nutrient and PH levels regularly to ensure they are within the recommended ranges.
Step 7: Animals will be attracted to the grapes. If you live in an area with a lot of birds, install netting around the grape vines. A high fence will deter deer and gopher traps will prevent gophers from accessing the fruit.
Step 8: Begin harvesting grapes in August in the Northern Hemisphere and in December if you are south of the equator. Pick full, ripe grapes early in the day if the grapes will be used for wine. Store harvested grapes in a shady, cool area.