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Grape Index
Chapter 19. Grapes for The Home Vineyard
The home gardener usually desires to grow table grapes. Grapes are produced in most California counties, but they do not ripen well in cold, foggy areas along the coast or in the mountains over 3000 feet (914.4 m). This is particularly true of the Vitis vinifera.

Grapevines may be trained on a fence, against the sunny side of a building, or on an arbor or pergola, even after the home garden is filled with trees, berry bushes, and other plants. Generally the vinifera type should be grown in the warm valets, and the hardy eastern varieties are the most satisfactory for plantings near the coast or in the mountains (Kasimatis, 1972).

To protect ripening grapes from birds, which also extends the growing season by several weeks, enclose halfgrown clusters in paper grocery bags. The paper admits enough light for the fruit to ripen normally, and the bag stays in good condition until the berries begin to sherivel or, in later maturing types, until the advent of heavy fall rains.


Many home gardeners who can plant only a few varieties prefer to plant early ones. Early fruit on the market is usually expensive, but the price comes down with the advent of midseason and late season grapes. Other gardeners prefer to have early, midseason, and late grapes to ensure a continuous supply of grapes over an extended period of 2 months or more.

Table grapes that grow well in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys and adjacent foothills include Perlette, Cardinal, Thompson Seedless, Red Malaga, Niabell, Tokay, Ribier Seedless, Blck Monukka, and Early Muscat. Tokay grows better in a cooler climate, and

Emperor thrives in a warmer climate. Cardinal, Perlette, Delight, Ruby Seedless, and Black Monukka are good early varieties. Niabell,Golden Muscat, and Pierce are labrusca types, suitable for making of juice and jelly.

For moderately cool locations outside the fog belt, Perlette and Delight are recommended. Both are white grapes of good eating quality. In the coastal region within the fog belt and in the mountains, eastern and Golden Muscat produce excellent fruit.

For coastal locations in southern California, Concord and Pierce are recommended although the latter does better in warm climates. Pierce, Ribier, Golden Muscat, Thompson Seedless, and red Malaga are suggested for the intermediate climatic districts of the semicoastal and warm inland valleys.

Pruning and Training

Grapes must be severely pruned each year. Young vines are usually trained to a single trunk, extending as high as desired for the permanent vine. Two, three, or four short permanent arms are developed at the top of the trunk in the desired directions.

Spurs with 2 or 3 buds are retained on varieties that produce fruitful shoots from buds near the base of the canes. Muscat, Ribier, Red Malaga, Tokay, and wine grapes are of this type. Thompson Seedless, Olivette blanches, and most eastern varieties such as Concord. Iona, Niagar require long canes instead of spurs to produce good crops.

Cane pruning is an easy method to use for all varieties of homegrown grapes. Retain 1-4 strong canes for the following year?s crop. Pick canes that originate close to the old wood left previous winter, and cut them to 10 or 12 three buds for renewal spurs. These may be selected near the base of each cane for fruiting.

Although on some varieties renewal spurs will produce shoots but little or no fruit, shoots that arise from renewal spurs will provide fruiting canes for the next year.

If you use a wire trellis, wrap the canes around the wires and tie near the ends. If you have no trellis or fence, pull all the canes upright and tie the ends together like an inverted basket (p. 190). Prune off everything that remains. The vine will then have 1-4 canes about 2 ft long, each having 10 or 12 buds, and 4 or 5 short renewal spurs 2 or 3 buds long. Repeat these steps the following year.

Canes can also be used to grow grapes on top of an arbor (p. 188). Train the trunk up the side of the arbor, and retain up to 4 canes on top of the arbor, and 4 or 5 renewal spurs. If the main trunk branches near the ground, you can train up 2 trunks and treat each branch as a separate but weaker vine. Save up to 2 fruiting canes and 2 or 3 spurs on each branch.

Varieties that bear good crops with spur pruning may be developed into low, self-supporting vines, or be used on a fence or an arbor. Vines requiring long fruiting canes require trellis or an arbor on which the canes can be tied for support.

Thinning Excess Crop

You can improve berry size and rate of ripening by removing some fruit clusters in early summer. Thin the number of clusters to one per shoot after the shatter of berries following bloom, when retained berries are about the size of a match head.


Grapes planted in deep soils in moderately warm to hot regions usually require only one to three irrigations each season. On very shallow soils, water may be required as often as every 2 weeks. In the cool coastal areas early summer irrigation is helpful.

Pests and Diseases

Powdery mildew is generally the most serious disease in home vineyards. Mildew can be prevented by dusting with finely divided sulfur. Dust the vines with sulfur when shoots are 6 in. (15.2 cm) long, 12-15 in. (30.5-38.1 cm) long, and then every 2 weeks until the fruit begins to color and soften. Dust the vines lightly from two sides. Delay or reduce the amount of sulfur during hot spells [100°F (38°C) or more]. Vines grown adjacent to lawns or in partial shade require additional dustings.

The grape leafhopper is the most troublesome pest in the hot interior valleys, and can be controlled with malathion during the third sulfur dusting just before bloom.


Grapevines on deep, fertile soils usually do not require fertilizers. However, on sandy soils, vines may respond to nitrogen fertilizers. Chemicals should be applied in the winter months during the dormant season. For bearing vines, about ½ lb(0.227 kg) of ammonium sulfate should be used per vine, applied to the soil surface around the vine but not next to the trunk. A slight pale color of mature leaves at the time of rapid growth in late spring indicates a need for nitrogen fertilizer. Another symptoms is less total vine growth.

Other fertilizers may be required in some areas. Deficiency of elements such as potassium and zinc causes distinct leaf and fruit symptoms. The local farm advisor should be consulted for advice.

Continue to Chapter 20