How Long Does It Take for Grape Vines to Produce Grapes?
Most grapevines give you fruit in their third season.
Your backyard grapevine can take up to three years to produce viable grapes, but that timeline is based on several environmental factors as well as how you care for the plant. Sunlight and well-drained soil are key to grape production, as is proper pruning. If you’ve neglected an older grapevine, it could stop producing until it gets some attention from you.
When you plant your grapevine in the spring, it’s just a small set of shoots. It can grow relatively quickly in the first year, developing a thick trunk and side canes that require training along a trellis, fence or wire system. But it’s not ready to produce grapes. In the second spring, the plant is still getting established, although a few tiny bunches of grapes might appear. These are unlikely to be the lush, full bunches of grapes you want, but some might be edible. Then the third spring arrives, and with it should come a much larger yield of sweet, tasty grapes on the now-mature plant.
Pruning is one of the most important factors in grape production. Grapes develop only on new growth, which sprouts from 1-year-old wood. This is one reason why most vines don’t produce grapes in their second year — the whole plant is only 1 year old, so its main job is support instead of grapes. In the first year, prune away all sprouts coming up from the ground except the strongest one. From that one, let four main canes develop and prune off the rest. In the second year, train these canes in two levels along a trellis or fence as they get long enough, going out to each side. In the vine’s second fall, prune off about 70 percent of the plant, leaving just the main trunk and canes. The canes will be a year old in the spring, which means they can sprout the necessary growth to develop grapes.
Without the necessary sunlight, grapes won’t develop properly, regardless of the vine’s age. Grapevines can grow in partial shade, but they are unlikely to produce much fruit unless they get a significant amount of sun — up to seven or eight hours per day. This is also why neglected vines don’t produce many grapes. The upper level of leaves often shades lower levels, keeping the leaves from absorbing the necessary sunlight to help the plant develop fruit. Once grapes appear, sun helps them develop more sweetness.
Grapevines require well-draining soil to keep the root system healthy. Without strong roots, the vine can’t develop fruit. Grapevines prefer loamy soil, but they can survive in denser soils as long as the grade allows it to drain properly.
Tiny bunches of grapes often appear in late spring as the blooms begin to disappear. In Mediterranean climates that tend to have cooler spring weather, the grapes might not ripen until mid to late summer, sometimes into early fall. Grapes usually develop their color and size long before they are ripe, so you can’t use your eyes to tell you when the grapes are ready. Instead, give them a taste. Pop off a grape from a few bunches scattered around the vine and taste them for sweetness. Once the grapes reach the taste you like, it’s time to harvest them. Grapes don’t continue to ripen and become sweeter after they are picked, so you must leave them on the vine until they reach the proper level of ripeness. Each year can be different, so don’t use the previous year’s harvest date by default. For example, one summer might be sunny with little cloud cover, while the next is overcast nearly every day. Because grapes need sun to ripen properly, it takes longer in years with more cloudy days.
About the Author
Based outside Atlanta, Ga. Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the Marietta Daily Journal and the Atlanta Business Chronicle, she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.
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