How to grow grapes

Grapes can be grown on trellises in the Grapes can be grown on trellises in the backyard Photo Credit: Morguefile/

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Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 20 years experience in radio, television, print ...

Planting: Mid-April to mid-May, in a spot with very well-drained soil and full sun. Avoid planting in low areas. Space vines 5 to 8 feet apart, and install trellis at planting time.

pH range: 6.0-6.5

Years until fruit bearing: 3

Pollination: Self-pollinating

Pruning: There are several pruning techniques employed for grapevines, including the four-arm Kniffin system, which requires a trellis consisting of 2 wires, one 30 inches above ground level and a second 24 to 30 inches above the first. These instructions are based on information provided by Cornell University and the Cornell Cooperative Extensions: Prune a dormant vine just after planting, cutting it to 12 inches from the ground, just above a bud. This will grow into the leader, or trunk. In April or May remove the top bud, leave the two buds below it and remove all others. In summer remove all flower clusters and watersprouts. During the first season, two shoots will develop. Allow both to grow, and in early spring of the second year remove the weaker of the two. Prune the stronger shoot to 4-6 buds (2 at bottom wire, 3 at top wire) and tie the cane vertically to the trellis. During the second summer, remove flower clusters and watersprouts as they grow and continue to secure shoots to wires. In early spring of the third season, leave 2 short canes with 3-5 buds each, one along each wire on opposite sides of the trunk; allow one cluster per shoot to bear. Thereafter, prune vines annually in late winter or early spring to support 20-55 buds.

Fertilizing: Apply one-half to 1 pound of a 5-10-5 product per vine, repeating every second or third year.

Harvest period: September to October. Color isn't necessarily an indication of ripeness, so taste periodically. Wait until all grapes in a cluster appear ripe, and then cut off the entire cluster, using sharp scissors or pruners.

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Storage: Will keep in the refrigerator for several days if not made into jam, jelly or wine.

Recommended varieties: Seeded: Alden, Buffalo, Edelweiss, Golden Muscat, Kay Gray, NY Muscat, Ontario, Price, Seneca, Sheridan, Steuben, Swenson Red, Van Buren, Yates. Seedless grapes: Canadice, Himrod. White wine grapes: Cayuga White, Chardonnay, Riesling, Chardonnel, Horizon, Seyval, Vidal, Vignoles. Red wine grapes: Baco Noir, Merlot, Concord.

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