Easy guide to growing ripe, sweet grapes in your garden – ‘not difficult’

The warmer summers have made grape-growing more popular in recent years, with many gardens now seen to have sprawling and productive grapevines spread across walls, fencing, and pergolas. According to Alan Titchmarsh, growing grapes from scratch is “not difficult to do”, although you do need to get a few things right when planting in order to secure plump bunches of fruit. Whether you want to grow them for wine or to eat fresh from the vine, there are plenty of varieties that are well suited to the UK’s climate. Here’s how to grow them.

It is perfectly possible to grow wine grapes and dessert grapes in this country, both of which are attractive as well as productive plants.

While you’d need plenty of outdoor space to grow an entire vineyard, one vine is plenty to produce up to three bottles of wine from a good harvest of grapes.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). wine varieties should fruit successfully in milder areas, while sweeter dessert grapes are best grown in a greenhouse for better and more reliable fruiting, especially in northern parts of the UK.

So how can you grow them from scratch in your garden?

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How to grow wine grapes at home

While this hardy climbing plant does need to be in a warm spot in the garden to thrive, the grapes should grow in abundance no matter what the weather as long as you get a few basics right.

Check plants before buying

Grapevines are easiest to grow from tall container plants, although the RHS warned that you should always check plants to ensure they are healthy before buying.

The society said: “If buying in summer, the foliage should be green, not yellow.

“Avoid plants that are ‘pot bound’ (with a mass of roots running round the inside of the pot).”

Plant vines in a warm spot

Larch Cottage Nurseries said: “The vine is best grown outdoors in a warm sheltered spot on a south or southwest facing wall or fence.

“Grape vines are hungry and do need regular feeding with a balanced feed such as blood, fish, and bone every six weeks or a liquid feed (such as seaweed fertiliser) every three weeks.”

According to the RHS, wine grapes do best in locations where temperatures are about 16C from early spring.

The fruit tree experts at Chris Bowers & Sons added: “Sitting your vine will depend on what space is available but always try to give as much sunshine as possible to ripen the fruits well for good color and higher sugar levels.”

Use well-drained soil

Wine varieties can be grown in any soil, providing it is well drained.

Sandy gravel over chalk is ideal, although you can improve drainage on heavy soils by adding well-rotted organic matter and grit.

Larch Cottage Nurseries said: “The best soil for planting grapes is good, deep free draining soil in a sunny site, the root system of a grapevine can grow very deep so the soil does need to be well cultivated.”

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How to grow dessert grapes

Grapes that can be eaten fresh from the vine should be grown in a greenhouse so that they ripen properly.

The RHS said: “They can also be planted in a large container kept in a conservatory or greenhouse during the growing season.

“They should then be moved outdoors in winter, as grapevines need a period of cold to induce dormancy.”

Plant in large containers

Always choose a pot around 30–38cm wide and deep to give container vines plenty of room to grow in soil-based compost.

Potted dessert grapes should always be trained according to standards according to the RHS, who recommended using a single upright stem with a rounded top, like a lollipop, to support the growing plant.

When to plant grapes

Both wine and dessert grapes should be planted as small plants during the cold season.

Larch Cottage Nurseries said: “The best time to plant your wine or dessert vine is between October and March into the weed-free ground so that the roots can become established over the dormant period.

“If you are going to train your climbing vines over a wire or other support system then makes sure it is in place before you plant the vine.”

They added that vines should always be planted about 4ft apart and nine inches away from any wall to allow space to grow.

Vines should be planted at the same depth they were in the pot, but first gently tease out the roots, so they are well spread out in the planting hole.