Grow your own wine grapes, hops at home
Q: Can I really grow grapes and hops in my garden?
– Don T. Arroyo Grande
A: Grapes are versatile enough for home gardens.
They’re sold potted and bare root. Plant them in full sun away from landscaped areas since they do not require as much water as lawns and ornamentals.
Grapes grow as a vine but will become groundcover if not trained correctly. Start training your plant when it begins to branch out, and periodically prune lightly to maintain its shape for maximum fruiting and ripening.
You may stake it and let it grow like a small tree, which is called “head training,” or create a trellis system as done in commercial vineyards. Choose the type best for your fruit production goals.
A head-trained vine provides limited fruit production, whereas the trellis system exposes the canes to more sunlight, increasing the formation of fruit buds.
Prune heavily in the winter when the vine is dormant. During the growing season, prune to maintain an open canopy for adequate sunlight to ripen the grapes and air circulation to minimize powdery mildew.
Remove excess canes that do not produce fruit. Water infrequently, but deeply.
When growing wine grapes, all the grapes need to ripen at the same time. And monitoring for sugar, acid and pH levels is important.
Hops are available as plants or rhizomes from specialty growers.
Hops bines — not vines — can grow to 25 feet and weigh 20 pounds. There are scores of methods for training them and providing the needed supports.
Plant hops after the danger of frost is over in spring. Water them lightly and frequently.
Use hops fresh off the bine, or dry them in airtight containers and store them in a freezer until you are ready to use them. Dry hops are most often used commercially.
Harvest hops between mid-August through September, picking by hand. After the first year, cut the bine down two to three feet above the ground to pick.
As winter approaches, cut the bine down to six to eight inches above the ground.
To learn more about grapes and hops, attend the UCCE Master Gardeners Advice to Grow By workshop from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 20, in the demonstration garden at 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo.
In the case of inclement weather, please meet in the auditorium.
Garden docents will be available after the workshop until 1 p.m.
Grapes can be grown in home gardens.