Planning Your Grape Harvest

A grape harvest can be a beautiful thing or a spirit-crushing nightmare. Whether you're harvesting grapes for your table or for wine making, good planning will result in a bumper crop. Grape vines may take two to several years to begin producing fruit, but once they start, vines can live for hundreds of years. That kind of timeframe calls for diligent, thorough planning.

Plan For Harvesting Now
Planning for your first grape harvest should start early-even before you've planted your vines. Here are several things to keep in mind:

  • Make room. Grape vines need lots of space to grow. Plan to provide an eight-foot by eight-foot area for each grape vine that you plant. This will give the plant room to grow and you room to harvest.
  • Let the sun shine in. Align your grape vine trellis so that it takes maximum advantage of the sun. A trellis with a north-south orientation will allow both sides of your grape vine to get several hours of sun each day. Avoid arrangements that leave one side of your trellis in shadow.
  • Think sturdy. Your grape vine trellis will have to remain in place for several years, so build accordingly. Heavy wooden posts, galvanized steel piping or large diameter PVC pipe are all appropriate choices. Your trellis posts should also be anchored in concrete set safely below the frost line.
  • Are they ripe? Your grapes will tell you they're ripe in a number of ways, including deepening of color, increased color and a sweet taste. It's perfectly all right to taste your grapes to determine their ripeness.
  • Preparing your tools. You'll need good pair of comfortable shears to cut the grape bunches from the vine. Before your harvest, make sure your shears are sharp and in good working order. Clean them with mild soap and water and rinse well to remove any traces of chemicals or bacteria.
  • Provide a landing area. Ripe grapes can be bruised easily, so make sure you have plenty of space to lie out your harvest. Flat trays are best for collecting grapes-lay them out in a single layer to avoid crushing and get them out of the direct sun as soon as possible.
  • Start early. Bringing in your grape harvest is hard work. Plan to start early in the day to avoid the heat of mid-day.
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