Growth Habit: Grapes are a vigorous, deciduous climbing vine.
Foliage/Flowers: Grape vines have large lime green rounded leaves about 5 to 15cm in diameter. The leaves are slightly 3-lobed, and have coarsely serrated edges. The leaves can be eaten. Small, green flowers are borne in panicles on current season’s growth.
Fruit: The juicy fruits form in large bunches and vary in color from dark red to light green. Grapes can be further classified as table grapes eaten fresh, sultanas best for drying, and wine grapes.
Adaptation : Grapes thrive where winters are cool, spring is wet, but summers are long, hot and dry. Planting is best done in winter. Planting in a sunny position over a fence or pergola is ideal, with vines placed 2-4 meters apart.
Soils : Grapes grow well in a wide range of soils but prefer a well-drained, moderately fertile soil with a ph between 5.5-6.5 (slight acidity is preferred). Feed with compost during late winter to early spring.
Irrigation : Grapes are very deep-rooted and are drought tolerant. For good cropping, water well during spring (flowering period), and reduce watering as the fruit crop ripens. Do not water at all during the dormant period over the cooler months.
Pruning : It is best to let the vine grow untrained for a year, to develop strong roots. Pinch off grape flowers during that first year. After the first year, prune the vines in winter, cutting back almost all the previous year’s growth, leaving only well placed stubs containing about four buds.
Propagation : Grapes propagate well from cuttings. Take foot-long hardwood cuttings from one year old wood and plant straight into the ground leaving two of the nodes subsurface.
Pests and diseases : Black rot causes reddish brown leaf spots and hard, shrivelled fruit. Botrytis causes a fluffy, white coat on the fruit. Remove and destroy all infected fruit and leaves. Birds can also be a nuisance.
Harvest: Harvest grapes between January and March, when they’re fully ripe as they will not sweetness after harvesting. An indication of ripe fruit is a browning of the stem of the bunch. Cut bunches off the vine and store in a cool area. Grapes keep for some weeks.
Recommended Varieties: Golden Muscat, Pink Iona