Grapevines are ideal plants for covering gaps on fences and walls. Plant between autumn and early spring and they will grow quickly, filling an empty space as well as providing you with fruit.
There are many varieties of grapevine, which will provide bunches of grapes that can be eaten as a dessert or can be used to produce wine – although some can be used for both. Some are tender and need the shelter of a greenhouse to crop prolifically, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry, there’s a good range that can be grown in well-drained soil, against a south or west-facing fence or wall. There are many ways to train grape vines, but one that works well is known as the double guyot system.
What to do
- Make a support on a fence by installing four support wires. The first should be 40cm (16n) above the ground, and the others 30cm (12in) apart.
- Mark the positions of the wires on the fence posts and drill through. Push an eye bolt through each hole and loosely secure with a nut.
- Wearing a pair of gloves, thread wire through the first eye, then bend it back and twist to hold. Wind the wire out to the second post, cut with pliers and thread through the eye bolt.
- Pull tight, twist and secure as before. To take out slack in the wire, tighten by turning the bolts with a spanner. Don’t overdo it, as it could put a strain on the fence.
- Secure the other three wires. If you have a wall, use vine eyes instead.
How to plant
- Dig a hole wider and deeper than the root ball of the plant, 15cm (6in) away from your fence or wall.
- Put the plant in the hole and start to fill, firming as you go – ensure that the top of the rootball is level with the surface of the soil.
- Push a 1.8m (6ft) cane behind the vine. Cut the vine back to leave three healthy buds, which are below the bottom wire of your support system.
- Tie the stump to the cane and secure the cane to the supports. Spread a thick layer of mulch over the root area of the vine.
- Allow three stems to grow vertically during its first year, securing them to the cane and pinching any shoots that grow from the side to one leaf.
- When the foliage falls in the autumn, untie the stems from the cane and tie two down to the bottom wire, one each side of the cane.
- Prune the third stem, leaving three buds to provide replacement stems next year. In spring, allow shoots to grow vertically from the branches that have been tied down. Aim to have shoots every 15cm (6in) – you may need to prune some out to achieve this.
- Pinch off side shoots to leave one leaf and when the shoots reach the top wire, pinch off their growing tips.
- Tie the three replacement shoots to the centre cane. When fruit appears, remove some leaves if necessary to improve air flow to the grapes. In the autumn, cut off the horizontal arms and repeat the process.
Five to try
- Vitis vinifera ‘Perlette’ – green seedless fruit. Outdoors
- Vitis vinifera ‘Schiava Grossa’ (Black Hamburgh) – dessert variety with dark purple fruit with a white bloom. Best indoors
- Vitis vinifera ‘Muscat of Alexandria’ – fine-flavoured green dessert grape. Indoors
- Vitis vinifera ‘Siegerrebe’ – white grape for eating or wine. Outdoors
Vitis vinifera ‘Regent’ – wine or dessert grape with good autumn colour. Outdoors