Five Tips for Growing Grapes in Phoenix

Grapes are one of the fruit-bearing plants that grow abundantly well in Phoenix, Arizona. They provide ample greenery and help create a lush backyard. I am always surprised to find a plant that thrives in the oppressive summer sun and can survive the occasional freeze in the winter.  I only have experience with the Flame Red Seedless varietal, but I think much of this will translate to others.

Largest Vine, Spring 2014
Largest Vine, Spring 2014
Three Vines, Spring/Summer 2015
Three Vines, Spring/Summer 2015

We planted three main grape vines along our garden fence three years ago. The trunk of the largest of these, which incidentally receives the most water, is about 4″ in diameter. These receive sun almost all day with the exception of the early morning when our house blocks the entire yard.

The following outlines the five main tips we learned thus far growing grapes.

1. Choose the Right Location in Full Sun

This is counterintuitive to me since most other plants we try to grow in Phoenix need some shade or they will burn. These grapes thrive in full sun. In the summer, ours receive direct or near-direct light from 7:00am until about an hour before sunset when the wall and other trees cast shade.

On the hottest days, some leaves may dry up. But overall, this location has worked very well for us.

We actually chose this specific location to plant our grapes because the large leaves shade more delicate plants in our garden.

Take into account both how large the main trunk will grown and how quickly the vines will spread. Smaller vines grow straight out into our lawn, straight up, and straight into the garden, seemingly overnight.

We lightly prune any vines that get in the way or begin to “pester” other plants in the garden.

2. Provide Ample Water Regularly, Particularly in the Summer

Our vines receive water from two sources: the lawn sprinklers and the garden drip system. The lawn sprinklers run once in the morning. The garden receives water in the early morning and mid-afternoon.

Each vine received its own drip line from the garden to establish itself. Now, they receive plenty of run off from the grass and garden.

3. Use Bags to Protect Grapes from Birds

We purchased mesh tie bags from Amazon (try these: Agfabric Bags), which work fairly well deterring birds and protecting the fruit. You’d be surprised though – you must tie the bags securely around the vines. We found several untied. I swear, the birds are smarter and more creative than you’d think. We’ve also used brown paper bags with rubber bands. This does not work as well – they usually fall off or get wet from the sprinklers.

bagged-grapes

4. Stay on Top of Pests, Particularly Grape Leaf Skeletonizers

These pests have the potential to destroy your vines’ beautiful green leaves. You know these little devils are present when:

  • You notice leaves start to appear transparent, with patches held together by the skeleton of the leaf. Turn the leaf over to reveal the yellow caterpillars.
  • You notice slow, harmlness and seemlingly clueless black flying bugs hovering around your vines.

Each spring, we purchase BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) which is an organic, natural pesticide. It is actually a bacteria found in the soil that wreaks havoc on the caterpillars. You usually dilute it in water and spray all over the leaves. Be sure to spray the tops and bottoms of leaves on a regular basis – especially after rain or if your leaves are hit with lawn sprinklers. I also try my best to squish the black flies and remove caterpillars by hand when I see them. If a certain leaf is particularly infested, we also occasionally remove the entire leaf and dispose of it away from the vines.
bunch-of-them skeletonizer-close skeletonizer-super-closeblackflies

5. Prune well after all the leaves have dropped

I am not an expert on pruning but am learning more each year. Essentially, fruit production is best from shoots that grow off of one-year-old canes. Here are some helpful resources I’ve used in learning to prune:

  • http://modernfarmer.com/2016/02/pruning-grapevines/
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0Z8I2WCLNk

 

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