Growing Grapes in Your Backyard
Most home gardeners who want to plant grapevines will purchase potted or bare rooted nursery stock, but grape canes propagate easily and increasing the number of vines from an existing planting is not difficult.
The most common method and the easiest way to produce additional plantings is to take cuttings from dormant vines, during the winter months. When selecting wood for cuttings use only one-year-old canes and avoid the terminal portion of the cane which is generally small in diameter and may have suffered frost injury. Select canes that are round and avoid flat canes. Canes of average diameter with moderate to close node spacing are preferred to very large or small diameter canes. Cane diameter should not be smaller than about ½ inch. Use pruning shears to remove mature canes from producing vines. Starting from the base of the cane, make 1 to 4, 16-20 inch long cuttings.
It is important to be able to identify the top (growth direction) from the bottom of the cutting to prevent planting upside down. Make a square cut at the base of the cane about ¼ inch below the bottom bud, then make an angled cut 2 inches above the upper bud to help identify the top from bottom.
Once the cuttings are made, plant immediately or store in plastic bags for later planting. The cuttings should not be allowed to dry out during storage. If only a few cuttings are involved, a moist paper towel inside the plastic bag will prevent excessive drying (avoid excess moisture in the wrap which will cause the cuttings to decay), and they may be kept in a shaded area of the yard or in the refrigerator until ready for planting.
To help ensure survival, it's best to plant 2 cuttings per site. In the event that one should die the second cutting will continue to develop. If both cuttings take root and grow, you can prune the weaker of the two below ground, allowing the stronger cutting to develop for future training and production.
A cutting which is 16–20 inches in length will have several buds along its length. Prior to planting use a pocket knife or hand shears to remove the buds that will be below ground; this will prevent any sucker growth from developing from buried buds. Generally, only the upper two buds are retained on each cutting.
One of the common errors home gardeners experience in planting cuttings is to plant them shallow; thus, leaving too many buds exposed above ground. Deep planting of cuttings is important to their proper rooting and survival. Only the upper two buds on the cutting need be above the soil line.
Spring temperatures will favor shoot growth from the two exposed buds; however, it is important to remember that the cold soil temperatures inhibit root development. Root development and establishment may take several months. During this period it is important to keep the cuttings amply supplied with moisture, taking care to not overwater which will cause them to rot.
Once the buds begin to grow and the shoots are approximately 8-12 inches long, the weaker cutting should be removed by cutting it off at ground level, or below, to reduce competition for water and nutrients