When most people think about the plants that they can grow in containers, well, they don’t think big enough. Sure, your common or garden tomatoes will fair well. But what about an apple tree or an avocado tree or a grapevine?!
On our roof terrace, eight floors up, we have two grape vines. One is a Chasselas Dore, a white grape which is believed to have originated here in Switzerland. The other grape is a red variety, which we can’t remember because the tag flew off in a particularly strong storm.
But regardless of variety, if you have the right mix of sun and shelter it is easy to grow grapes in a pot. They are delicious fresh from the vine, but you can also use your grapes to make homemade wine, and other delicious cordials and juices.
When to sow –
You can grow grapes from seed, but it is much better to buy an established vine from a garden centre. These vines are a lot more resilient, and can be up to 5 years old, but what really helps in this situation is that often grape varieties are grafted onto a strong rootstock. That will help eliminate diseases and ensure you have a nice healthy plant.
What the soil needs –
Grapes like a well rotted, slightly alkaline soil. It needs to be well draining, and if you are growing them in a pot make sure it is big enough.
What type of sun –
Grapes like sun, but shelter. They are happy to grow up against a wall or drainpipe, but wind can damage the vines and also the fruit, so whatever you grow them against make sure they are trained securely using garden twine.
What size pots –
You’ll want something that is at least 50l for each vine, and you’ll also want enough support for each plant. We grow ours up an archway, but you can use balcony balustrades, canes or even drainpipes – get creatives and find what you can in your environment.
Your grape vines are going to be susceptible to a few diseases, namely mealy buts and scale insects. Keep a close eye out for any damaged leaves, and treat accordingly.
Use an organic liquid plant feed, rich in both nitrogen and phosphorus.
Once the flowers on the grape bunches bloom (sometime in early spring), brush over them with a soft-brisel paintbrush. This will help pollination. Once grapes have begin to form thin out the bunch by cutting off the smallest grapes. This will help larger grapes to form and even bunches to grow. Once the grapes are ripe (often they’ll change colour at this point), cut the bunch off the vine with a pair of sharp scissors.
Anything else –
In early winter be sure to cut back the summer’s growth. This might seem a bit drastic, but what it does is force the vine to put all its energy into the root system ready for next season.