Growing Grapes

Growing Grapes

grapes grow your won fruit johannesburg south africa lifestyle home garden nursery plant shop

Maybe it was in anticipation of all the festivities (and bubbly!) of the coming season or perhaps it was the thought of the cool sanctuary that an arbour covered in grapevines offer from the summer heat…whatever prompted us to write this blog, grapes are most certainly making a comeback!

Grapes are a very attractive ornamental addition to the garden or courtyard and will add seasonal interest throughout the year. Growing your own grapes and enjoying the little juicy gems they harbor is definitely possible and most enjoyable in all types of gardens.

A few Pointers

  • Grapes like hot, sunny areas that offer some protection from frost in winter.
  • If you take good care of your grapevine, it will grow and produce for many years to come – it might even outlive you. Keep this in mind and choose a site that will accommodate your vine permanently.
  • Good drainage is very important for the health of your vine. Choose a well-draining site with a sandy loam soil.  Grapes won’t thrive in clay soil.

grapes grow your won fruit johannesburg south africa lifestyle home garden nursery plant shop

Planting your Grapes

The best time to plant young vines is in early autumn or early spring.  Select a strong, healthy plant from the many varieties available at Lifestyle Home Garden.

The following grape varieties are suitable to grow on the Highveld and in other summer rainfall areas:


Produces small, round grapes with dark purple-red skin.  It is a slip-skin grape with seeds.  The flavour is musky and the taste sweet-sour. It can be used as a table grape and to make wine. Catawba is a fast and strong grower with good resistance to disease.

Harvest time:  Mid-January to early March.

‘White Hanepoot’

This is one of the oldest cultivars and originates from North Africa. It produces large berries with green skin that turns yellow when ripe.  The skin is soft and the flesh is clear and seeded with a strong, sweet Muscat flavour when fully mature. White Hanepoot is an excellent multi-purpose variety and can be used for table, juice, drying and winemaking.

Harvest time:  February to March.

‘Red Globe’

Produces large grapes with a ruby-red colour.  The skin is strong and the flesh is seeded with a firm, crispy texture and a mildly sweet, pleasant taste. Red globe can be used as a table grape or can be juiced or dried.

Harvest time:  From early January


This is a very popular table and export variety.  It produces medium to large, oblong berries with a very bright red colour.  The skin is soft and the flesh is seedless, firm and crisp with excellent flavour.  It is a vigorous and strong grower and is very adaptable to poor soil conditions and variable climates. Crimson seedless can be used as a table grape or can be juiced or dried.

Harvest time:  Late February into March.

‘Flame Seedless’

Produces small, round berries with an attractive light red colour.  The skin is medium thick and the flesh is seedless, firm and very sweet and juicy.  It is a vigorous grower with good yields. Flame seedless can be used as a table grape or can be juiced or dried.

Harvest time:  Early ripening from late November to December.

The Nature of Grapes

Grape vines are vigorous growers and need to be supported by a sturdy structure like a trellis, arbour, pergola or gum poles and this structure has to be installed beforehand.  Plant only one vine per support.

Grapes are gross feeders.  Prepare the planting hole in advance.  Dig a hole of about 60 x 60cm and add a generous amount of compost and a good measure of bone meal or 2:3:2, according to manufacturer’s recommendations, to the dug out soil. Use this soil to plant your new vine and plant it slightly deeper that it was in the bag/pot when you bought it.

If planting more than one plant, space them 1.5m apart in rows 1.5m wide.

After planting, cut the stem back to 3-4 eyes/buds and water very well.

Spread a generous layer of mulch around the plant(s), keeping clear of the stems.

Grapes can be grown with great success in large pots, tubs or troughs, provided they are in full sun and are supported by a vertical trellis.  These plants will have to be pruned back and kept under control more than vines in the garden.  Also keep in mind that vines in pots will need to be watered and fed more frequently.

grapes grow your won fruit johannesburg south africa lifestyle home garden nursery plant shop

General Care

  • Once a year, in spring, do an application of organic 8:1:5 fertiliser (according to manufacturer’s instructions). At the same time apply Epsom salts (Magnesium Sulphate) at the rate of 80g per young vine and 140g per mature vine.  Always water well before and after applying fertilisers.  The Magnesium Sulphate can also be applied as a foliar spray at the ratio of 45g per 10L of water.
  • After this, apply a bi-monthly feed of organic 3:1:5 fertiliser until mid-autumn.
  • Keep vines moist during the growing season, but don’t let it get waterlogged.
  • Reduce watering during the ripening stage.
  • Protect fruit from birds with bird netting or strips of foil attached to the vines to scare them off. The individual bunches can also be wrapped in netting bags, old stockings or white paper bags.
  • Grapes are prone to fungal disease like powdery and downy mildew and rust. Start spraying preventatively with a copper-based fungicide every fortnight from November until March.

Pruning your Grapevine

It is very important to prune your grapevines during their dormant stage in mid to late winter just before spring growth starts.

During the first season, choose the strongest stem on your young vine and cut it back to 2 eyes/nodes. Prune off all other branches. The 2 eyes will send out shoots – choose the stronger of the 2 and tie it to your support structure. Remove the other shoot. Survival of the fittest here…

As this shoot grows, continue tying it to the support. Pinch side shoots at 30cm intervals until the plant reaches the top of the support and cut the shoot at this height. The shoot will develop 2 side shoots, which must be trained to grow horizontally in opposite directions from the main shoot along the top of your arbour.

Every subsequent winter, cut the shoots that developed during the season back to 6 buds and older, fruit bearing canes back to 2 buds. Remove all dead and diseased growth.

The Harvest…

Allow grapes to mature on the vine and only pick when fully ripe. Taste the fruit before you start picking until it is fully developed. Remove by holding the bunch of grapes in one hand and cutting the stem with a very sharp knife or secateurs.  Avoid pulling or jerking as this may damage the fruit or plant.

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