News release: Grapes for Home Gardens

Tim Baker, MU Extension Horticulture Specialist
102 N. Main, Suite 1, Gallatin, MO 64640

Release Date: September 29, 2016
Headline: Grapes for Home Gardens

As I travel around Northwest Missouri helping homeowners with their horticultural problems, I sometimes find a few grapevines in their yards.  This is an interesting plant, with both food and landscaping potential.  And its fruit can be used in a number of versatile ways.  I often wonder why more people don’t grow them.

Grapes are included in the family Vitaceae, and the common genus we see in Missouri is Vitis.  This genus includes both wild and domestic species.  There are two major types that we see cultivated in Missouri.  These include native American bunch grapes, such as ‘Concord’, and the French-American hybrid grapes that are used for wine.  True European grapes, which includes the major wine varieties and some table/raisin grapes such as ‘Thompson Seedless’, are difficult to grow in Missouri, and are not as common here.  Another type that is sometimes seen in Southeast Missouri is the muscadine grape. Unfortunately, they do not do well in most of Missouri, since they can be damaged when temperatures fall below 10 degrees.

In selecting a site for grapes, remember that they are subject to frost damage, and thus known frost pockets should be avoided.  The sides of open, rolling hills are ideal.  Grapes will tolerate a variety of soil types, but the soil should be well-drained.

For table grape use, the native American grapes are best suited to our area, and are less prone to disease problems.  Grapes such as ‘Concord’, ‘Niagara’, and ‘Delaware’ are excellent choices.  Some seedless varieties such as ‘Reliance’ and ‘Suffolk Red’ are good choices as well.

A few problems can be expected with grapes with each growing season.  Perhaps the biggest disease problem is black rot.  This disease can be controlled, but you must spray regularly to keep it from taking over.  A few other diseases and insects can be troublesome from year to year, and I strongly suggest you get a copy of our guide sheet “Fruit Spray Schedules for the Homeowner”.  This will tell you exactly what problems to look for, and when to spray for them.

Perhaps the most common question from homeowners that I get with grapes is how to prune them.  Grape pruning is no mystery, but you do have to be very aggressive with the vines, and you should remove a lot of wood every year, if pruning is done correctly.  If you are growing grapes, I would suggest that you call me and request some of the bulletins that I have on pruning grapes.  These publications show the different training systems, and how to prune them.

Grapes are normally planted in the spring when the weather begins to warm up.  They may be propagated from cuttings, or bought as nursery stock.