How to Grow Grape Vines from Cuttings
When choosing plants to grow in a small space it is critical they meet certain criteria, are they productive, do they offer benefit to the environment, and can they be managed in small spaces?
Grapevines meet these requirements and many more in fact they have been part of civilizations since the age of the dinosaur and gathered by hunters foraging for wild fruit and vegetables.
Vitis vinifera is a vigorous vine that still occurs in the wild throughout the Mediterranean regions of the World, including central Europe and Asia, and has naturalized in many more countries.
Grapevines have been around since pre-historic times and became a foraged fruit through the centuries all parts of the plant have been attributed to healing properties and where drinking of pressed grape juice and wine became popular. The young grape leaves are used as a popular Greek dish stuffed wrap, filled with meats and rice, herbs, and seasoning.
There are almost 80 species and over 10’000 varieties, surprisingly, just a few of which are grown commercially for wine production.
Fields of grapevines are a common sight throughout much of the wine-producing regions of the World, rows of posts and wires support these fast-growing vines that are kept in check by regular pruning, feeding, and watering.
The tendril growth for the vigorous vines requires support to grow and search for light often associated with lush, humid forests, particularly near water. Highly adaptable to growing conditions the named varieties thrive when afforded optimum growing conditions, including irrigation and nutrition.
Grapevines are self-fertile so you will get grapes with just one plant, bees encourage pollination but are not essential. You will hardly notice the flowers as they appear when the vine is in full leaf.
If you are lucky enough to have access to a grapevine growing on your property or gifted by a friend or neighbor then you can choose when to prepare the cuttings to suit your busy schedule.
Grapevines can be propagated at several times of the year, depending on your access to healthy plant material in the form of living shoots and stems will determine when you can take cuttings.
Hard pruning is best carried out in March before the buds begin to swell, planting new canes is best completed in March or April as weather conditions allow. There are several low maintenance checks you will need to carry out including Summer pruning long tendrils on established plants, removing leaves from shading grapes as the swell and ripen, watering, leaf collection, and as mentioned Spring pruning.
Long vine tendrils are best trained tight to an espalier (horizontal) frame. Commercial growers often use tension wire and wooden posts or metal stakes, walls and trellising are often used for gardens with limited space, gazebo or garden shed, even a tree would make a good climbing frame for grapevines.
When growing a grapevine in your own yard or garden space, how you are going to use and recycle garden waste is an important consideration. Adopting professional pruning principles of commercial grape producers is recommended, as they keep the vines hard pruned to a spread of approx 6ft.
Plant waste will need to be accounted for, consider using the finely chopped stems as a mulch and the long twisted branches for support when annuals and perennials. Leafs and soft stems can be composted and should be cut up small to speed by the process and added as part of your composting at home.
Taking cuttings could not be easier, but there are some simple guidelines to follow.
1: Take cuttings from healthy, pest and disease free stems.
2: Choose stems that are at-least pencil thickness and have a minimum 3 sets of healthy buds.
3: If you are only taking a handful of cuttings then take and prepare them straight from the parent plant, if you are taking 100’s of cuttings then gather and bundle the stems, to prepare them later.
4: When preparing the 8″+ cuttings, start with the bottom cut straight below a pair of healthy buds.
5: Always use a sharp, sterilized pair of (My favourite Secatures) or hand-held pruners.
6: The second cut should be at an angle approx and inch above the third or fourth set of healthy buds or nodes.
7: Remove any leaves, tendrils or side shoots at this stage if taking in Fall or Winter, in Spring or Summer leave a single small leaf in-tact.
8: This 8″ stem is best made into a small bundle and tied with string
9: Hydrated the bundle of stems in water overnight, next dip the bottom stems in rooting hormone solution and inserting into a moist recycled, well-draining compost. Alternatively, cuttings can be inserted in moist soil in a sheltered location.
10: Both in-ground or potted cuttings should be kept in a shaded part of the garden, this keeps temperatures low, required to encourage rooting.
Encourage your newly rooted vine cuttings to grow in the first season, this will also allow the root system to establish prior to the first dormant season.
After the first frost the vine will begin to loose leaves, once all leaves have dropped prune all new growth hard back leaving only 2 or 3 buds.
Professional grape vine growers will wait until the first frosts, which encourages leaf drop and makes access to the vines easier.
Hard pruning is required to ensure new shoots can be trained from the remaining buds as they start growing in Spring.
During the first season, you have the opportunity to determine the future shape of your vine as you continue to prune hard every year and create an established framework.
If you are limited on space or growing in a container then careful pruning early in your vines development will make training the fast-growing stems much easier in the future and for years to come.
Recommended Cultivars for Pennsylvannia.
Niagara and Concord grapes are grown across PA, primarily in the NorthWest region, and both grapes, mostly go into making juice or jelly. Wine, flavors come through with candied lemon and floral jasmine aromas.
Niagara is a mid-body grape wine providing complementary flavors with seafood, strong cheeses, and pastry. Concord grapes are sweet dark red with a strong flavor that pairs well with sharp cheddar, salty and spicy food, and sweets.
I find growing plants from seed incredibly rewarding, even the smallest of outdoor garden areas can be a productive workout for all the family. Try thinking of your garden as a living kitchen and grow to love fresh flowers, organic fruit and vegetables straight from your own backyard oasis.Stephen Pryce-Lea