Grapevines, grapes

Sweet grapes from your own garden? No problem: even in cooler areas, you can get considerable harvests if you plant the right varieties.

Origin and growth

Whether grapes or table grapes (Vitis vinifera ssp. Vinifera): There is hardly a fruit around whose juice there are more legends, myths, legends, songs, poems and stories. The cultivation of grapevines for the production of wine has been an important industry in the Mediterranean region since ancient times. The Romans brought the warmth-loving grapevines with them as a cultivated plant to the conquered provinces north of the Alps and, for example, grew wine in the Moselle valley near Trier. In the Middle Ages it was mainly the monks who advanced and perfected viticulture in various climate-damaging regions. However, the most important wine-growing regions in Germany are still in the area that was formerly controlled by the Romans.

The cultivation of table vines or table grapes is particularly interesting in the home garden. These are special varieties of grapevine that have been bred for fresh consumption. Its berries are larger than those of the classic grape varieties used in wine production, but not quite as sweet and juicy. Another advantage: Many of the current blue and white table vines are seedless.

The original home of the wild grapevine (Vitis vinifera) probably extends from the Middle East across the entire Mediterranean region. It still grows wild in alluvial forests and its northern limit is the Danube. The first noble grapevines (Vitis vinifera ssp. Vinifera) were grown from the wild grapevine as early as 5000 BC, presumably in present-day Syria. In contrast to the wild grapevine, they are not sexually separated (dioecious) but have hermaphroditic flowers, which considerably simplifies the fertilization process. These so-called noble vines formed the origin of wine culture. The earliest viticulture is believed to have been carried out by the Sumerians around 7000 years ago in what is now Iraq.

All grapevines are vigorous climbing shrubs and, with a suitable climbing aid, can reach a height of 10 meters without being cut. They fix their thin long annual shoots with the help of shoot tendrils. The alternate leaves are 5 to 15 centimeters in size and, depending on the variety, more or less strongly sawn and lobed. A leaf forms on almost every shoot and a shoot tendril on the opposite side.

The flowering time is quite different depending on the variety and climate and is in the period from mid-May to mid-July. The small yellow-green flowers form on the nodes of the new shoots. They are hermaphroditic in all European cultivated vines and stand in dense panicles. The fruit clusters, the actual grapes, develop from the flowers, whereby the individual fruit is correctly referred to as a grape. Depending on the variety, the ripe fruits turn green-yellow, rust-red or blue-violet.

VarietyFruit color / propertiesRipening timeFlavorParticularities
‘Elegant sverhranny’bright; Large and firm berries with little seedfrom mid-Augusthighly aromatic
table with a fine note of nutmeg
very frost hardy, long harvest time
‘Calastra’bright; large round berries; very large, green, decorative foliagefrom the beginning of Septemberfine-sweet and fruity with mild acidityStrong growth and robust, also for greening house walls and pergolas
‘Solotoi Don’bright; Grapes weighing up to 1 kg with round, crisp berriesfrom mid-Septemberfruity-sweetfrost hardy to minus 24 ° C, very small, hardly disturbing seeds
‘Original’yellow-orange to rosé; date-shaped, pointed-oval berriesfrom the beginning of Octobermild to sweet and fruitydecorative foliage, for a sunny location, in southern
‘Moldawa’blue; oval, large, crisp berriesfrom mid-Octoberdelicately fruity and sweetvery robust, beautiful red foliage in late autumn

Location and soil

Wine and table grapes absolutely need a warm and full sun location so that they can mature well. In cooler regions, a favorable microclimate is important, for example a protected location in front of a house wall that is exposed to the south. Vines do not have high demands on the soil. There are good wine-growing locations in Germany on both lime-rich marl soils and on more acidic sandstone weathered soils. Because of the late ripening period, deep and not too moist mineral soils are advantageous as they warm up faster in spring.

Planting and care

If you want to plant a grapevine, mid-April is the ideal time, container goods can be put into the summer. The planting hole is dug about 50 centimeters deep on compacted soil and the subsoil is loosened. The grapevine should be planted at an angle to the trellis and make sure that the refinement point is above the ground. At the end it is poured on strongly.

Depending on how you are raised, it is important that you have enough space to the right and left for training: You can easily grow a six-meter-wide trellis plant from a grapevine. In spring you should provide your grapevine with a little compost, about two to three liters per square meter. Most other fertilizers are too high in nitrogen and favor the occurrence of leaf diseases. The rest of the care measures are limited primarily to the pruning (see below) and removing the leaves that shade the grapes too much.

Note: In the course of the season, stinging shoots form from the leaf axils of the new shoots, which previously were consistently removed as with tomatoes. In the meantime, however, they have been left standing, as their assimilates are largely shifted to the main shoot, where the grapes benefit. You only need to remove the shoot sections that shade the grapes with their leaves and thus delay their ripening.

Upbringing and editing

The greatest effort is required to raise and prune the vines. Grapes generally only form on the new shoots that arise from biennial wood. Regardless of which trellis shape you choose: One or more support posts with tensioned wires or a wooden frame to tie the shoots in place are essential. If several shoots develop in the year of planting, the strongest one is left standing and tied to the support pole. Regular tying is necessary for straight trunk formation and protection against breakage. All other shoots are removed. Anything that grows above the desired stem height in the year of planting is reduced to two or three leaves in September.

The lignified main shoot is cut off at trunk height about three centimeters above the last bud and, if not already done in autumn, attached to the support post. After the ice saints (mid-May), the spring shoots should be reduced to the strongest, a maximum of five, and carefully pulled horizontally, vertically or in the form of a fork along the trellis. Regular spring and summer pruning are necessary.

Winter protection

Before the onset of frost, the trunk base of the grapevine should be loosely padded with earth or compost in cool locations. This winter protection is removed again in March, so that the grafting point is exposed and receives light. Freshly planted vines should also be covered on all sides with fir branches in the first winter so that they do not freeze back too much. In locations where there is a risk of late frost, you should not plant early flowering varieties, otherwise the risk of a crop failure is very high.


The table grapes and vines sold in Europe have hermaphroditic flowers and are self-fertile. So you only have to buy one plant to be able to harvest fresh grapes in autumn. Pollination is mostly done by the wind.

Harvest and recovery

The harvest of the early varieties often begins in August, with grapes such as ‘Regent’ you have to be patient until the end of September or October. The right time can be recognized by the berry color typical of the variety and the gradually woody stalk. If the first taste test already signals sweetness, it will take at least another week for the sugar content and aroma to reach their optimum. You can store excess harvest in a cool, airy cellar for some time. If you want to press your own house wine, you can generally also use table grapes. However, you need a larger number of grapes so that the amount of must is sufficient to fill glass balloons or plastic barrels: 15 kilograms of grapes make about ten to twelve liters of juice.


In principle, all types of table grapes can be easily propagated using cuttings, cuttings or cuttings. However, these so-called real-root grapevines have the problem that they are very susceptible to phylloxera. For this reason, the cultivation of unrefined grapevines is even prohibited by law in Germany. The commercially available grapevines and table vines are all grafted on special substrates that are resistant to phylloxera. Since the vineyards’ need for young plants is very high, the nurseries use a special, very time-saving propagation method: the so-called omega grafting. Using sharp pliers with an omega-shaped cutting edge, you punch a corresponding profile in the root layer and the same size counter profile at the bottom of the noble rice. So the base and the noble rice fit together exactly and only have to be put together. The noble rice including the refinement point is then sealed with wax.

Diseases and pests

Depending on the variety, grapes are prone to certain fungal diseases. In order to prevent an infestation with real or downy mildew and gray mold (botrytis), one should plant fungus-resistant varieties. Table vines, also known as resistant, are not completely immune, however. An infection often occurs in a wet, cool summer or if it is too dense. One of the most important preventive measures is breaking out lush foliage in the grape zone so that berries and shoots dry out more quickly. Even better: you plant the sticks in a place on the house protected from rain or on a covered pergola. Fungal diseases can be prevented by regular spraying with network sulfur.

Animal pathogens have not played a major role for a long time since phylloxera could be successfully kept in check with resistant documents. For a few years now, however, the cherry vinegar fly has been increasingly appearing in the wine-growing regions and lays its eggs in the ripening grapes. You can only protect it by wrapping each grape in fine-meshed gauze bags. In addition to grapevines, the smallpox mite also attacks the table grapes that are popular in the garden. But even if the damage can look dramatic, massive control is usually not necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can you plant vines?
It is best to plant grapevines in April or May.

How deep should you plant a grapevine?
The planting hole should be about 50 centimeters deep and 30 centimeters wide. It is important that the refining point is five to ten centimeters above the surface of the earth.

Which soil is suitable for grapevines?
Grapevines prefer a sandy-loamy, deep and mineral soil.

How often do you have to water a grapevine?
Young vines in particular should be watered regularly. With older specimens, it is sufficient to use the watering can only if the dryness persists.

When can you prune vines?
The pruning of grapevines is usually done in autumn after harvest or in late winter. Often a summer cut is also advisable.

Which grapevine is suitable for the garden?
Table grapes are best for growing in the garden. These are larger and more aromatic than traditional grapes and can be eaten straight from the bush.

What does a grapevine cost?
Depending on the variety, young vines can be found in stores for as little as $ 15.

When to spray grapevines
Since grape vines are very susceptible to disease, depending on the variety, fungal diseases can be prevented by spraying with network sulfur. The ideal time for this is in spring, when the first three leaves are fully developed.

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