If you’ve ever thought about making your own wine, grape jelly, or just having fresh, sun-warmed grapes to enjoy straight from the vine, you’ve probably thought about how to grow seedless grapes. It’s a bit of a conundrum, really. How do you grow fruit without seeds? Or maybe it’s more accurate to ask how fruits can be seedless and still exist?
Biology is a strange and wonderful thing. And as it turns out, seedless grapes aren’t seedless. The seed is undeveloped; therefore, “seedless” varieties of grapes, like the popular Concord Grape, wouldn’t exist without cloning.
So when we’re talking about how to grow seedless grapes, we are, by definition, referring to cloning or grafting. Lucky for us, it’s easy. And in the case of grapevines, a successful clone could produce grapes for decades.
Before you begin
There are a few things to consider before we get into the technicalities of how to grow seedless grapes. Since we’re cloning, you’ll need to either buy bare roots or a young grapevine from your local nursery or a reputable online retailer like Burpee. Or, of course, you can always make friends with your local vineyard!
The next thing to consider is your climate. Grapes can grow in a wide variety of climates, flourishing mostly in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 to 9, essentially anywhere there are warm summers and cold winters to allow for plant dormancy. Cold-hardy varieties, like Valiant Grapes, have actually been developed to stretch the range to include zone 4, and some varieties claim to be hardy into zone 2.
Location and soil are important, too, which should be of little surprise. Grapes tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, from sandy to clay, but loamy soil is preferable, and good drainage is essential. Also important is a site that gets full sun, or at least morning sun. A small amount of afternoon shade won’t hurt. Make sure you’ve cleared the area of weeds and grass so there’s no competition for nutrients and water. Grapes also appreciate good air circulation, but not strong winds.
Lastly, your grapevine will need a lot of space to expand. A trellis or arbor is ideal. Just remember that a well-tended vine can easily grow 10-15 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. And they can produce grapes for decades. It’s not unheard of for grapevines to live well over 100 years in the right conditions.
How to grow seedless grapes the easy way
Okay, now that you’ve got your space ready and found your rootstock or young vine, let’s get into how to grow seedless grapes.
- Plant your vines early in the spring, as soon as you can work the soil.
- Dig a hole about twice as wide as the root system, so there is plenty of room to spread out. The hole should also be deep enough so you can plant the vine with the lowest bud just above surface level.
- If you’re planting bare rootstock, soak the roots in water for 3-4 hours.
- Once you’ve placed the vine in the hole, fill it in, but leave the soil loose.
- Water immediately. Do NOT get water on any leaves, as grapes are susceptible to several diseases.
- Prune any unhealthy stems and trim the vine down to the two strongest shoots.
- If the vine isn’t tall enough to reach your trellis or arbor, use a post to help support and train it.
- Water your grapevines weekly and continue to prune any unhealthy growth.
For now, that’s it! You now know how to grow seedless grapes.
But that’s not all there is to it. Don’t worry. It probably takes longer to read this than it will for you to care for your vines. It just seems like a lot when you’re looking at it on a page.
Take a look at Pruning, Fertilizing, Watering, and Weeding Your Grapevines for more details on what to do once you’ve planted your seedless grapes.
Prepping your seedless grapes for winter
Grapes can be quite cold-hardy. Canadice Grapes, for example, are hardy down to -20 degrees F. And Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes are one of the most cold-hardy and disease-resistant wine varieties.
Still, part of learning how to grow seedless grapes is learning how to get them ready for winter. There are a few different methods, but the easiest is to insulate the roots and trunk, especially if you have a variety suited to your region. Mound soil and mulch, covering roughly 8 inches of the vine above ground.
In addition, you’ll need to prune the vine. And don’t be surprised, but you’re going to take about 90% of the vine. Grapes produce on new growth, so while it might seem like you’re cutting the vine back to nothing, you’re giving it the opportunity to thrive the following season.
Don’t prune too soon, though, as you don’t want your vine to start attempting new growth in the depth of winter. Instead, prune in the late winter or early spring, depending on your climate. Be sure to leave a few of the buds on the trunk to encourage growth when the time comes.
Want to know more about growing grapes? Take a look at Great Grapes: How to Grow the Popular Fruit Multi-Tasker. This gardening guide includes information about the history of this wonderful fruit, different types of grapes, and how to grow grapes, complete with how much water and sunlight grapes needs. You’ll also get profiles of several popular varieties of grapes, plus several mouth-watering grape recipes. Open up the gardening guide today and start growing grapes!