Grape vines tolerate and may even prefer slightly infertile soils, so don't add manure or compost to the planting hole unless your soil drains poorly. Fertilize plants every spring, but don't overdo it. When given too much fertilizer, grapes produce lots of lush green foliage at the expense of fruit production.
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Newly Planted Grapes
Fertilize newly planted grapes after seven days. Spread 8 ounces of a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer at the base of the plant, keeping it 6 to 12 inches from the trunk. Grapes prefer a soil pH level between 5.0 and 6.0. If your soil is more acidic, apply lime, as recommended by a soil test analysis. Grapes require well-drained soil and full sun. Plant them at the top of a slope, away from trees. Avoid low areas where frost may collect.
During the second year after planting, apply one pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer to the soil around each plant in early spring one month before new growth emerges, when buds start to swell. Apply 1 1/2 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer to each plant in the third and subsequent years. As the grapes mature, apply the fertilizer 2 to 3 feet from the grape vine's trunk to avoid burning the plant.
Additional Care Requirements
Grape vines are more drought tolerant than most fruit crops, although they may require additional irrigation during periods of dry weather. Keep the soil free of weeds and apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of wood chips or straw mulch. Prune and train grape vines to a trellis system, beginning the spring after planting. Without proper training, grape vines soon become tangled, unproductive masses. Grape vines take three or four years to produce a heavy crop of fruit.
Before planting grapes, consult a local nursery or cooperative extension office for varieties suitable to your area. Many grapes, particularly those grown for wine, are not cold hardy. If you live in an area with harsh winters, plant American varieties, such as Delaware, Reliance and Concord or hardy French-American hybrids, such as Seyval Blanc and Vidal Blanc. Plant several different varieties to mature at various times throughout the season.