If you live where winter frost is common, then the grape variety 'Concord' (Vitis labrusca 'Concord') is likely to grow well in your home garden. Developed in the mid-1800s, 'Concord' is among the oldest kinds of grapes grown in the United States, and it is usually simple to grow and largely trouble-free. It only needs a bit of extra care at planting time and during its first few growing seasons.
Video of the Day
Doing Some Planning
'Concord' grapes grow as perennial plants in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8, where the woody vines produce sweetly scented flowers in spring followed by blue-black fruits that usually ripen in mid-September.
The 'Concord' variety doesn't produce seeds that germinate into plants identical to the parent plants. So it's necessary to start with young plants. Purchase them from a reputable supplier, choosing vines certified as disease-free. Start with vigorous 1-year-old plants. In general, a mature grapevine should produce roughly 10 to 12 pounds of fruits yearly; use that crop rate as a general guide when deciding how many 'Concord' plants you'll need.
The best time to plant new grapevines is early spring, as soon as the soil is workable. 'Concord' grows in any type of garden soil that's well-drained, and you can improve your soil's organic content by mixing 1 inch of compost into it well before planting time.
Selecting a Site
Planting new grapevines in a spot that gets full sun exposure for at least eight hours daily helps ensure good fruit production. Choosing a spot that protects young vines from cold spring weather also helps. For example, partway down a south-facing slope is a good spot because cold air tends to drain to lower parts of the slope.
'Concord' grapevines become 5 to 6 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. To give them the opportunity to spread well, space the plants about 10 feet apart. Set each plant in a large hole that allows its roots to spread fully and that keeps the plant at the same soil depth as it was in its nursery pot. Back-fill each hole with soil, tamp the soil and water it well to remove air trapped around the roots.
Don't add fertilizer to the planting holes because it might burn the roots.
Providing Ongoing Care
All grapes, including 'Concord,' have roots that penetrate soil deeply. Because of this trait, established plants don't need regular watering except during extra-dry conditions. During their first growing season, however, it's helpful to provide extra water whenever the top few inches of their soil feel dry to you, but water established plants only during hot, dry months or during droughts. When you water the plants, do so deeply to moisten the soil around their roots. It also helps to remove weeds regularly from a 4-foot-wide area under each vine because weeds compete for soil moisture.
Giving 'Concord' vines regular fertilizing promotes strong, healthy growth. Use a balanced fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 formula in granular form, spreading it in a circle on the soil surface about 1 foot from each plant; work the fertilizer about 2 inches deep into the soil. Use 1/4 cup of the granular, 10-10-10 fertilizer for each 1-year old plant in early spring, and then feed the plants again one month later with the same amount of fertilizer per plant. Feed older plants once in spring when their dormant buds begin to grow, and increase the amount of fertilizer as the vines mature. For example, use 1 cup of the granular, 10-10-10 fertilizer for a 2-year-old plant and 1 to 2 cups for a plant that is 4 years or older.
'Concord' is a self-fruitful grape variety, which means it doesn't need cross-pollination to produce fruits. So you can harvest fruits from a 'Concord' that grows alone.
Supporting and Pruning
Like most grape varieties, 'Concord' needs support. Plant 'Concord' vines along an existing support such as a fence, or build them a trellis with upright stakes connected by two horizontal wires spaced 18 inches above each other.
You needn't prune the vines during their first year, but remove all but one strong vine or stem per plant during the next spring, using pruning shears that you wipe with rubbing alcohol between cuts to prevent spreading plant diseases. Tie each plant's remaining vine or stem to a fence post or upright support, and let it grow upward during the second year; then allow two side branches to remain on each side of the stem during the third year, tying them to a fence rail or wire. In each year afterward, remove most of the previous year's growth, leaving each plant with four strong side branches to bear the new crop of fruits.