How to Grow Grapes in Containers

Loire Vineyard, FranceGrapes are most often seen growing in long rows in vast hillside fields, lined up perfectly on the sun baked valleys and hills in many, many places in many countries.

It would be easy to assume that it’s impossible to have a grape vine growing in a small space or even in a container. This isn’t true and with a little planning and pruning it’s possible to grow grapes in containers successfully. 

Grapes, as brand new nubs

Basic Requirements for a Grape Vine

A very large container, such as this toy tub or a half wine barrel
Good quality soil
A healthy grape vine of your choice
A hot and sunny place to grow, minimum 6 hours of direct sun per day
They need a lot of water the first 2-3 years as well as when they’re producing fruit
They need a generous amount of nutrients to produce well

Micro ClimatesThe Very First Grapes!

Micro climates are little pockets of temperature differences within another climate zone. These can be a small as your backyard or it can be large like a park.

Many factors contribute to a micro climate, everything from nearby trees and buildings to the path of the sun compared to the wind direction and more. Understanding a little about them will influence the health of your garden a lot. The grape vine I had for years didn’t produce at all and had no idea why.

It wasn’t until I moved to a house with a much sunnier and hotter backyard that I figured out that my plant wasn’t getting nearly enough sun. In the first year of the hotter backyard, I had my first harvest off of the plant in probably 10 years of keeping it. Assess your growing area and try to figure out if you’re dealing with a microclimate or not. That information will influence your eventual success a lot.

Just Beginning to GrowI thought the vine I had was a Concord, but since the vine is now happy and growing grapes this year, it’s become obvious that it isn’t a concord at all but a variety of red grape. So hopefully they’ll grow to maturity and be namelessly delicious anyway. Time has gone by now and the harvest is done, I confirm that all of the grapes were so delicious and sweet. They tasted just as good as they look in these pictures.

12 Month Care Schedule for Grape vinesGrapes Coming Along nicely

Feb/March: Prune in-ground vines before any growth starts.
April/May: Plant bare toot vines as soon as the soil is workable.
May/June: Plant potted grape vines when danger of frost has passed.
April/May/June: Remove all buds that appear on the trunk.
April thru August: Allow new growth to establish. then train against wall or fence.
April thru October: Inspect regularly for insect damage or disease.
Sept/Oct: Protect young grapes from birds.
Octoberish: Harvest when ripe and sweet (exact timing depends on your region)
November: Clean up fallen fruit and leaves.
December/January: Enjoy the winter

Still Waiting...As far as finding a container large enough to plant the vine in, there are lots of options. If you don’t like the look of a toy tub, then a half wine barrel is good but it’s also an option to use a larger raised bed type of thing like this one.

My grape vine is pruned quite small and lives in a toy tub. It currently has 9 bunches of green grapes growing on it. 

One thing about grapes is that they don’t like mulch or ground cover around their bases. The mulch (or ground cover) insulates the soil and keeps it cool. The roots of the grape need the soil temperature to be warm in order for the grapes to form and mature properly.

 

One vine in a container, kept under control will grow enough grapes to eat and maybe make a jar or two of jam but it’s not likely that it’ll grow enough fruit to make any amount of wine.

So for our purposes here, I’ll keep it quite simple. Just how to pick a decent plant, keep it happy and healthy and harvest some grapes to eat in your own backyard. 

Generally grape vines like to grow in zones 4 – 8. They like to be warm and exposed to direct sun. Choose a grape variety that is bred to withstand the climate of your region. This will increase the chances of success a lot.

So Close to ReadyThe hardier varieties include Canadice, Niagra, Delaware, Bluebell and Concord. Concord is a familiar type because it’s the one commonly used to make grape jelly.

Seedless Grape Varieties

Vanessa Red Grape – 2-3 years old and 2′-3′ tall
Concord –  6″ starter plant
Golden Muscat – 1 year old and 2′-3′ tall

Red Flame – 2 years old and 2′-3′ tall
Himrod Green – 2 years old and 2′-3′ tall
Lakemont Green – 2 years old and 2′-3′ tall
Remaily Green – 2 years old and 2′-3′ tall

Watering Tip

One good solution that I’ve found is to collect or buy the clear plastic tray lids that are made for large food platters. They make great plant trays in the garden, as far as I know they are available up to 18″ diameter.. These are perfect because they conserve water and maximize the amount of water that the plant can absorb.

Fully Ripe GrapesThe water run through on the containers no longer matters because the plant can soak it up from the bottom at a slower rate without it being wasted. It’s important to keep the water in the tray fresh and clean. Don’t let it become yellow or nasty in any way.

Pollination

Grape vine flowers are self fertile and are pollinated by the wind, birds and the various insects passing by. This means that you don’t need to have more than one plant to get a crop of grapes like you do with blueberries. Vines as young as one year are capable of producing fruit given the right conditions and care. 

Pruning

Prune the grape vine in the early spring before new leaf buds appear. Then while the new green vines are still young and flexible, you can train it to grow on a trellis. With good pruning maintenance it’ll stay quite contained and beautiful in your small space. 

This is where you can get creative and choose to grow the vine along a wall, espaliered or in a trellis or obelisk. Look for something to suit your specific space. Be careful not to over prune and cut out branches after spring leafing because you’ll likely cut off the young flowers that are soon to be grapes.

The grape vine is easy to recognize, the leaves are very similar in shape to the maple leaf. The leaves hang upside down from the vines.

If you like grapes and you have decent hot sun in your backyard for 6 or more hours a day then I recommend growing grapes in containers and experience the pleasure of eating your own fresh grown grapes. They’re so delicious.

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