Grapes have been grown in Northern Europe for millennia but the Romans really spread it to places like Britain. They are extremely hardy plants and only require a small space for growth. They are usually planted along a south facing wall in colder climates, fence or trained over an arch or pergola. They are extremely decorative plants as well being productive, specially with the appearance of cold hardy varieties. Indeed, it’s possible to plant the vines in most areas where the fruit is used for wine making or eating fresh.
Vines are planted about 1.2 to 1.5 metres (4-5 ft.) apart. Use a Gripple system to support vines if that is the method to be used.
How To Prune Grapevines
You can of course let your grape vine ramble all over the place. Fruit quantity and quality will be vastly improved if you prune and train your vine.
Wine grapes carry more bunches of fruit than the dessert varieties. Thin out the number of bunches your vine carries, selecting the best. Choose one very 3ft (1m) of stem for dessert, and one every 20in (50cm) for wine.
The bunches appear on sideshoots off the main stems. Cut two leaves past each bunch of grapes, so that the sideshoots are shortened. This helps to both boost fruit set and maximise individual grape size.
Cut back non-fruiting sideshoots and any others that arise as the summer progresses. The leaves often provide useful shade in the greenhouse. Cut back as hard or as gently as you wish so that the vine remains within bounds.
Grapes For The UK
Some of the main cultivars for growing in the UK.
Black Hamburgh – a fine dessert variety which can be seen in all its glory as the Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace. This one is the oldest vine in existence in the UK certainly. The large berries are dark red to purple. Very juicy and sweet. Can be grown in an unheated greenhouse but likes heat in cold climates. All fruit ripens in September onwards. Pomona Fruits are a good supplier of this variety.
Phoenix – a modern white dessert and wine grape. produces a large yellow berries with a fine muscat flavour. Shows excellent mildew resistance which is always an issue during we summer seasons. An excellent choice for organic growers. ideal too for outdoor growing. Fruit ripens in early October.
Vanessa – a red seedless variety bred in Canada. Given the country it is one of the hardiest we can find. The fruit quality is comparable to the older variety called Flame. Grapes are firm, medium in size with a mild, fruity flavour. Will ripen in a cold greenhouse. All fruit ripens in October.