Growing grapes in Oregon home gardens

Last Updated: 
October 2, 2009

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Since wine-making began in Mesopotamia in about 6,000 B.C., growing grapes has been a popular vocation. And, given the fact that grapes grow both domestic and wild over the entire globe, it's no wonder why.

"It's phenomenal that a plant can be so geographically disposed and thrive in the tropics as well as in the temperate zones of Canada and Russia," said Steve Renquist, horticulturist in the Oregon State University Extension Service office in Douglas County. "Many wine and juice grapes don't even need rich soil; if it's too fertile it can be a detriment to the quality of the fruit."

Whether a table variety or those squeezed for juices or wine, grapes are a healthy food, Renquist said. "The resveratrol polyphenolic in grapes is an antioxidant with potential health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer."

Home gardeners can grow grapes in a small place as long as the plants get a minimum of six to eight hours of sun daily for good fruit bud development and sugar production. Table grapes do need healthy soil and grow well in the Willamette Valley, which Renquist claims is as fertile as California table grape soils in the San Joaquin Valley.

Well-drained soil, however, is important, as is air circulation to minimize the threat of disease. Renquist advises planting grapes away from the house, a tree or a solid fence. They can be grown on a trellis, in a spot that shades the patio or even in a large container.

Understanding grape growth and pruning are needed to make sure vines produce high-quality fruit.

Although grapes can be grown worldwide, varieties adapt to rainfall, frost and climate in different ways. With many from which to choose, it's important to select only those known to perform well in your area. For descriptions of grape varieties that grow in most areas of Oregon, see another OSU Extension publication, Grape Cultivars for Home Gardens.

Author: Judy Scott
Source: Steve Renquist