Grow, train and prune table grapes
If you want large juicy table grapes establish your vine first.
Where to grow your plant
Grow it in full sun, in a sheltered area, along a wire frame 5 to 6 metres long. Only two wires are necessary. The bottom wire can be at any height, but the second one should be 300 to 400 mm above. The first wire supports the plant frame. The second wire will support the new canes that grow each year and on which the grapes form. You might choose to place your first wire at only 500 mm above the ground so children can pick the grapes. You might place it at an easy adult picking height. It might be along the edge of a verandah or patio to provide shade and gourmet joy. Or it might be part of a frame over a chicken run ... who knows?
Do not plant your grape next to a solid wall or fence. Air needs to flow right through the plant: (1) because grape flowers are wind pollinated and there must be a smooth air flow for best cropping and (2) because the solid wall can stop air flow and harbour fungal disease.
I have a vine along the edge of a verandah under a plastic roof overhang. The first wire is against the building frame. The second wire is at the same level 300 mm out from the frame. Dew and rain drip from the roof onto the leaves. The leaves are exposed to full sun and the plastic roof protects the grapes from searing sunburn. (See photos at the end of this article.) Wherever you grow your plant, only two wires are necessary. Once your large juicy grapes have been eaten and the leaves have dropped off in autumn, the canes will be pruned back again to the main frame leaving the top wire empty. The next year, new canes will develop and will attach to the top wire with new bunches of grapes.
Train the plant during the first spring (top left). In winter the plant lies dormant waiting for spring (top right). In the next spring new canes and grapes form (centre).
Leaf buds will form at each node as the warmth of spring takes effect. After the buds open out, canes (or twigs) begin to grow.
After 3 or 4 leaves have developed on each cane, flowers will begin to appear. They look like tiny bunches of grapes. Watch and wait until there are at least three leaves above the flowers on each cane. At this stage, the flowers will be producing feathery tips. These are the parts of the flower that need to be fertilised to produce fruit. Pollination occurs by wind so it is important to keep the plant open for the wind to ripple through between the flowers. Pluck off all leaves along each cane below the flowers (see photo right).
New leaves will continue to grow beyond the flowers. Once there are 5 large leaves, pluck the growing tip out. These 5 or so leaves are enough to provide photosynthesis and shade for the growing fruit. By keeping only a few leaves the plant's energy goes into filling out the grapes rather than into making new leaves.
As time goes by, the plant will attempt to create more leaves at intervals on
the main plant and as lateral shoots in the crooks of the 5 leaves. Pluck these
out at regular intervals as they appear. This will keep the plant’s energy
moving into the grapes.
You may need to cover your grapes with netting to protect your booty from
looting birds. Do this only as the grapes start to ripen. If you do it earlier
it will be difficult to keep the laterals and extra leaf growth under control.
Pick your grapes when ripe. Enjoy!!
After leaf fall, choose a dry day and prune each cane back to the second node
(see photo right). Your plant will sleep awhile, waiting for the next spring's
One wire against the deck structure holds the plant frame. (Note the trunk of the vine on the right-hand post, pruned of any leaves.)
The photo above shows the
second wire that supports the season's