Why a Trellis System Is Great for Grapes

By   | Last Updated :   August 5, 2021 | Filed In :   Growing Guides

When you think of grapevines you might imagine a sweeping Mediterranean vineyard with row upon row of neatly staked vines bearing huge bunches of juicy grapes.

Did you know that you can easily grow grapevines in a pot, flowerbed or vegetable garden?

I’ve got a glorious French grapevine climbing up a westerly wall in my garden and, surprisingly, it’s thriving in the soggy British climate.

trellis for grapes

Photo by Doug Kelley via Unsplash

Grapevines are vigorous climbers and although they can be left to do their thing, a trellis system will give them extra support, especially when they reward you with an abundance of heavy bunches of grapes.

Grapevines produce long tendrils as they grow which will naturally twist and curl around whatever they find on their way, whether it’s an existing woody stem, another plant or a trellis.  They can’t cling to walls or fences so you’ll need to provide support for them.

How to trellis a grapevine

There are a few ways to successfully trellis a wandering grapevine:

Wooden trellis

Inexpensive and easily fixed to a wall or fence, wooden trellis is an ideal support for rambling grapevines.

Different trellis structures such as arbours and arches provide attractive options and as vines grow so quickly, create a perfect screening option, giving you cool shade and essential privacy.

wooden trellis for grapes

Credit: Shutterstock

Attach the vines at approximately 12-inch intervals along the trellis for optimum support.

Post and wire

One of the simplest ways to support grapevines is post and wire, you’ll need to insert a stake close to the young vine which it can be gently tied to.

The other stakes can be bashed into the ground at roughly 5 feet intervals.  Fix wire horizontally between the stakes, roughly every 30 inches.

post and wire trellis for grapes

Credit: Shutterstock

When tying the vines to the wire, make sure you use soft cloth strips or twine, allowing space for the vines to move.

Pergola

Perhaps one of the most popular plants to train over a pergola, grapevines provide excellent shade and make pruning easier as the plant is trained over a large structure.

They also make a stunning addition to an outdoor space.  Just one vine can cover a pergola as left unchecked, grapevines can grow up to 115 feet in length!

In the summer months, vines grow at a rate of 2-3cm per day so you can expect extensive coverage within a couple of years.

Large obelisk

Grapes will happily grow up an obelisk, and it’s a good option if you’re growing a vine in a smaller space.  You can buy 8 feet obelisks which are ideal for vigorous vines.

Wall or fence wires

My grapevine grows against a brick wall and is periodically attached to a series of galvanised wires that have been horizontally attached to the wall.  Use soft ties to attach the woody stems which can grow thick and gnarled over time.

grapevine against a brick wall

Credit: Shutterstock

Caring for your grapevine

Planting

Grapevines are one of the easiest plants to grow and should start producing fruit when the plant is around 3 years old.  Grapevines will grow in any soil type and like a sunny, sheltered spot.

Before planting bare-root varieties, give them a good soak in water for 2-3 hours.  Choose a site with good drainage and space for the roots to grow down.

You can add bits of broken crock or large stones to help with drainage.  It’s likely your young vine will have more than one shoot so select the best one to tie to the support when it’s around 12 inches tall.

Vines grow extremely fast so you’ll need to tie new growth in regularly.  You can start grapevines off in a pot but they are best transplanted when young, so bear that in mind if you wish to plant it in the ground eventually.

Pruning

Pruning your grapevine not only keeps it in shape and confined to the area that you want it to grow in, but it boosts fruit production by as much as four times compared with an unpruned vine.

Pruning a large vine may seem like a daunting task but vines are vigorous and forgiving so you can cut established plants back hard!

New growth begins each year from last season’s old wood, so prune the old wood back in winter, making sure to leave at least a two-bud renewal spur. This will become next year’s new growth.

Harvesting

Now for the best part! Grapes ripen from late summer to early autumn, depending on variety and location. A grape that is ready to harvest should feel firm and will have a white-ish coating.

How does it taste? This is probably the best indicator of ripeness as grapes can change colour before they are ready to pick. Harvest your grapes when they are at their sweetest.  You can store grapes in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to two weeks.

5 Fascinating Facts About Grapes

  1. The roots of a grapevine can grow down to 30m!
  2. The quality and sweetness of the grapes depend on the amount of light that reaches the leaves. Sucrose is produced in the leaves during photosynthesis which is then transferred to the grapes.
  3. Grapes are, in fact, berries, a subcategory of fruit.
  4. Grapes are packed with nutrients and antioxidants and are particularly rich in vitamins C and K.  Pop them in the freezer for a delicious, cool snack.
  5. There are over 8,000 varieties of grape, around 1,300 of which are used for making wine.
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