Grow grapes in pots

Grow grapes in pots

Grapes are vigorous vines that grow effortlessly when planted in the ground. With regular care and maintenance, they’ll grow well in containers, too, and provide you with your first crop within 2–3 years. It’s unlikely they’ll give you enough grapes to produce your own vintage, but you’ll still enjoy a harvest of sweet, juicy fruit.

A grapevine is also ideal to train over a balcony railing for screening, or a trellis to soften a wall with greenery. With a couple of potted grapes, you could establish a leafy shade cover for a pergola in summer, and, being deciduous, they will lose their leaves in winter, allowing the warming sun to come through. With a couple of stakes or a piece of trellis inserted into the container, a grapevine can also make an attractive, freestanding potted garden feature.

Grapes grow best in temperate and arid areas. Generally, they don’t like humidity, which causes foliage diseases. In humid areas, go for a disease-resistant variety, such as Isabella, or a tropical muscadine grape variety (Vitis rotundifolia).

Growing and training
A vigorous plant needs a big container – 50–60cm wide and deep. If you plan to keep your vine small, you could get away with a 40cm container, which will stunt the plant somewhat. Choose a light-coloured pot, so the root ball doesn’t get too hot.

Grapevines are usually available to buy in plastic grow bags at this time of year. When you’re ready to plant, water well, cut the bag along the side and carefully remove the root ball. If the roots appear crowded, gently tease to loosen them, and if they’re circled or tangled, free them up by doing some judicious snipping with sharp secateurs.

Before you fill it, place your container where the vine can access lots of sun as it grows. Part-fill with premium potting mix, position the plant, then backfill, with the top of the root ball at the same level it was in its previous container. Water well twice a week – more in hot times, less in cool. Feed once a month from spring to early autumn with pelletised chicken manure, or a synthetic slow-release fertiliser.

In the first year or two, focus on training and establishing the framework to which you’ll prune back each year. Aim to create a single stem or trunk, then, if you like, cut off the tip at the point where you want two or more branches to form. Loosely tie your main branch to the support. After that, for most varieties, every winter, simply cut the previous season’s growth back to two buds. The new growth that will shoot from these buds in spring will produce the fruit.

For more tips on re-potting grapevines and growing other crops in pots, check out the January 2022 issue of ABC Gardening Australia magazine, out now.