A hearty and beautiful addition to the gardenscape, grapevines are long-lived, easy to grow and will produce their fruit with minimum care. Most nurseries sell grapevines during the winter months when they are dormant and about one to two years old. Select a variety that is self-fertile or you will need to plant more than one vine for pollination. Also think about the type of grapes you like to eat. While my cabernet vine and grapes are attractive, the fruit has large seeds and I use it more as a decorative element and let the birds enjoy the fruit.
Vigorous growers, the vine could still take about four years to establish and begin to bear its fruit. I was told to remove any blossoms or the early stages of grapes that appear on young sprouts the first few years after it is planted. This process will allow the central vine to grow stronger and later produce an abundance of grapes as it matures. Plant your vine in well-drained soil that has exposure to full sun and in an area where you can give the vine support by attaching it to a trellis, arbor, or wall.
Grapes require a fair amount of water, but not a lot of fertilizer. You do not need to fertilize your grapevine the first year after you plant it, but keep the soil from drying out in between watering during its growing season from spring through fall. I feed my mature vine with a little organic bone meal in February for nitrogen to encourage growth and in the early spring, I fertilize it once with Eleanor's VF-11 fertilizer that seems to have the right amounts of phosphorus and potassium to form the fruit. An occasional spray of water from the garden hose will keep aphids in check. They seem to be the only pests that invade my vine.
Pruning back the vine in February before spring arrives is important since grapes will only form on the new branches. The side branches growing off the main vine are known as "laterals." Shorten each lateral branch where it still has one or two "nodes." Nodes are the little bumps that appear on the naked vine where its leaves once grew. The nodes sprout new branches in the spring that will produce small masses of blossoms and the grape clusters will begin to form as the blossoms fade. As the days grow warmer the grapes will grow larger, and my Cabernet grapes turn from green to red and as the end of summer nears they ripen into a rich purple hue.
The tender leaves that appear on the vine in spring can be used for stuffed grape leaves when they are about 4-5 inches across. Grapes are usually ready for harvest by late summer and when you prune your vines branches in February, save them to create grapevine wreaths.