Of all the fruit you can grow in the garden, a grapevine is among the most productive and beautiful. All you need is a sunny wall, fence or pergola for it to scramble up and it'll cheerfully cover the whole thing with big elegant leaves turning brilliant colours in autumn, and of course fat clusters of fruit dripping with sweetness.
There are dozens of varieties of grapevine and we've got a great selection in our South Ockendon garden centre. For sweet fruit for the table, go for a dessert variety: 'Brandt' has small but very sweet dark-skinned grapes (and spectacular autumn colour) while 'Phoenix' is a reliable modern variety good for both eating and winemaking.
If it's a vineyard you're after, there's an even wider choice. 'Seyval' makes a light, fruity wine; while 'Pinot Noir' ripens well in a good summer for a classic deep red claret.
Here are our top tips for growing successful grapevines:
- Choose a sunny site, ideally a south- or southwest facing wall and sheltered from the wind. Vines do best in free-draining soil like sand or chalk: if you're gardening on clay dig in a barrowload of grit before planting.
Add well-rotted farmyard manure (found in our garden centre) to improve soil before planting, as grapevines are in the ground a long time.
- Add a handful of slow-release fertiliser like pelleted chicken manure or bonemeal to keep your plant happy all season.
Plant when vines are dormant – from late autumn till early spring, as long as the ground isn't waterlogged or frozen.
- Put up a sturdy training system before you plant: stretch wires 30cm apart up a fence, or attach trellis. You'll find all you need in our garden centre.
Water thoroughly in dry weather: if grapevines get parched at the roots they're more likely to suffer from mildew, ruining your crop.
- Prune each winter once the vine has dropped all its leaves and is completely dormant to remove some of the year's vigorous growth and keep the plant productive and healthy.
Please ask the staff in our garden centre in South Ockendon for more information and advice about growing grapevines.