There are two steps to start a successful grapevine: First, look at the variety you want to plant, what it is primarily used for, and what your plans are for using it. Second, check the planting zone you are in and the hardiness of the grapevine. These are very important. A vine that survives at +10 degrees F takes a chance on killing the root system at -10 degrees F. Most grape plants are fairly hardy, but depending on your location and knowledge of your area, it may be good practice to research before setting your heart on a particular variety.
Next, find a nursery that carries the variety you are interested in planting. Nurseries typically carry 1-2 year old plants. Spending a little extra for a 2-year-old plant will start you with a better root system and have you producing grapes a year sooner. However, 1-year-old plants are just fine.
Check the disease resistance of the variety you are planning to plant. Are you planning to spray the grapes you are planting? With proper consideration of these things, along with the right type of soil, you will reap the rewards of your own fresh fruit. A low maintenance variety like a Muscadine may be your answer to the ease of not spraying while still producing fruit. Always pay attention to your variety zones, as the Muscadine is predominately a southern growth reaching only so north as the Boston Mountains in Arkansas.
Now that you have selected your grape variety, how do you plant? Sit your plant at the desired grow location. Note how big the diameter of the root system is and dig your hole that size. Longer roots can be gently trimmed to suit a better fit. Your dig hole should be 18"-24" deep. Adding a time-released fertilizer tablet is suggested, but sprinkling a little 10-20-10 at the bottom of the hole works just as well. Begin filling the dirt to the halfway mark and add another sprinkle of fertilizer. Take care not to use too much. If the depth of the hole almost consumes your grape plant, fill the hole partially and leave it concave. As the plant grows, you can fill the rest of the whole up.
Spacing is important to remember when planting. I recommend an eight foot space between grape plants and a post between each third plant. For example: End post --- 4 ft. (grape plant) --- 8 ft. (grape plant) --- 8 ft. (grape plant) --- 4 ft. (post). You are splitting the 8 ft. space in half between the 3rd and 4th plant. There should be three plants between each line post. Use a 1/2" bamboo stake at each plant. Tie the plant loosely to each stake, then tie each stake loosely to each wire support. For wire spacing, start with a 5 ft. top wire. You can space 18" between and have three wires per row with the third wire being closer to the ground for drip irrigation. For two wire spacing, use 2 ft. in between to topmost wire and the next below.
There are many ways a person can plant grapes, but I find there to work best in my vineyard. I have grown grapes for over 20 years, but this is simply a recommendation of what I have found to be successful for a small plot or commercial vineyard. If you have found this helpful, or just need more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James M. Dahlem