Plant a grapevine now in a sunny spot and you can make the most of the warm soil and damp weather to settle it in beautifully by next spring when it bursts into growth again. Growing grapes is becoming hugely popular these days, as the summers get warmer and last longer. All they need is a sheltered spot, ideally against a wall to hold in the warmth, or failing that a greenhouse to make sure those luscious fruits ripen.
Modern varieties are selected to perform well in UK conditions, too, so you have an even better chance of success. Most grapes are ‘dual purpose’ – so you can eat them fresh off the vine as dessert grapes, or collect them and press them for wine. There are also early varieties, cropping as soon as late August, and late-fruiting varieties which don’t start until October (these are best grown under glass to make sure your harvest isn’t ruined by bad weather).
You’ll need to put the supports in place first: you’ll find a wide range of trellis designs in our fencing department here in the garden centre at Poynings, or if you’re handy at DIY pick up some vine eyes and sturdy plant wire instead and fix wires at 45cm intervals up the wall to a height of about 2m.
Dig over the ground first, removing weeds and large stones then mixing in lots of organic matter such as well-rotted farmyard manure, garden compost or soil improver. Dig a hole for the vine so that the top of the root ball sits just below ground level. Back fill with more soil and firm well, then water in thoroughly.
Remove canes and ties and then spread the stems out across your supports, and tie in gently with jute twine. Once it gets growing it will quickly cover supports and scramble up and over walls; train a strand or two into the greenhouse through a window and you’ll find the fruits ripen much more quickly, so you get to enjoy that burst of sugary sweetness all the sooner.