Growing grapes in the UK climate is very achieveable. There’s nothing more satisfying than producing your own sweet and delicious fruit and harvesting direct from the grapevine. If you plant the right variety, you can grow a bountiful crop of grapes indoors or outdoors in the UK.
Most grape varieties come from the cultivar Vitis vinifera, which a grapevine native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia. There’s even evidence that the Romans attempted to create vineyards in the UK during their occupation of the country. If you wish to create a spot in a garden or greenhouse to grow a grapevine, you’ll need trellising or a sunny wall to support the plant. So long as you plant a hardy variety that will do well in the UK climate, there’s no barrier to success in producing a crop.
Growing Grapes Outdoors in the UK
Growing grapes in your garden is as easy as growing any other type of soft fruit. As long as you have a south-facing garden in a relatively warm area you should have no problems growing grapes outside. Alternatively, you can grow them inside a greenhouse if you live in the north of the UK.
Grapes are hardy plants that can be grown outside in the UK. For the most part, this is achievable for gardeners in warmer Southern areas. The RHS advises that the best chance of success lies in areas south of the line between Pembroke and the Wash. That said, with climate change meaning warmer temperatures for many areas of the UK, it is always worth experimenting and researching what’s achieveable in your own area.
Planting A Grape Vine Outdoors
The best time to plant a grapevine is from October until March. Choose a south-facing position and grow the vine up a wall or sturdy structure, such as a pillar. Dig a hole 15cm deep and 15cm away from the support (wall, pillar, etc). Place the rootball in the hole, refill the space with soil and gently tread the soil around the stem to firm it into place. Cover the soil surface around the vine with a thick mulch of well-rotted manure or compost to help protect the roots from frost.
Growing Grapes in a Greenhouse
If you live in a colder area, you can easily grow a grapevine in your greenhouse and enjoy sweet, delicious fruit. This can be an excellent use of space if you’re able to train the vines around the higher areas. As these aren’t usually used for growing, it can increase greenhouse productivity. If you do grow under glass, you will achieve better quality and flavour from the fruit.
Grapes need to be grown in a greenhouse or sun room. The vines require lots of sunlight to grow. They will not flourish inside a house even when light levels are high because the environment is too dry.
How to Plant Grapevines in a Greenhouse
There are two methods to plant grapes under glass:-
- Plant the root outside the greenhouse against the wall and train in via a small hole. This method of cultivation is often applied to vines that are grown in greenhouses with concrete floors. However, it is important to provide ventilation (usually via an open window) for grapes grown under glass. This ensures that humidity levels are reduced as the fruits ripen.This is also a popular method because it allows the root system plentiful access to natural rainfall.
- Plant inside in a border or container. If you choose to plant your vine inside your greenhouse you will most likely achieve earlier and more vigorous growth of the vine and plentiful fruit production.
For both methods, you will need to ensure the root has access to free draining soil. The vines will tolerate a range of soil types, however if you have heavy soil in your garden you will need to improve it before planting. Well rotted manure and grit will help create a free draining growth medium.
You do not need a lot of space at your disposal to grow grapes indoors or outdoors. You will need to prune and train your vine, as they can become quite large and rambling if left unchecked. As long as your chosen site has plentiful light, you should enjoy a successful crop.
Choosing a Grape Variety
Once you’ve decided where you will plant your grapes, you will need to research which grape varieties are best for your chosen location.
For cultivating outdoors, it is best to choose a grape variety suited for the outdoors. These include:
- Meuller-Thurgau – a mid-season maturing sweet, white grape, suitable for desserts, or wine-making.
- Siegerrebe – an acid-loving early fruiting variety, with green/gold berries, ideal for making wine.
Indoor varieties (ideal for being grown in a greenhouse) include:
- Black Hamburgh – a well-known variety, bearing large, blue-black berries.
- Thompson’s Seedless – this variety produces green dessert grapes and can be grown successfully in a cold greenhouse.
Growing Grapes In Pots
A grapevine will grow happily in a pot and produce grapes every year if well cared for. Grapevines can be kept in large pots for several years. To maintain a healthy grapevine in a pot, top-dress every spring. Simply remove 15cm of compost from the top of the pot and replace with a fresh layer of well-rotted manure or compost. Regular watering and feeding during the growing season will be required to maintain nutrient levels to ensure the plant grows properly.
Grapes are a fantastic fruit to grow in your garden. They can be grown indoors in a greenhouse or conservatory, or grown outdoors along a wall or in a container. You can eat the grapes fresh on their own or in salads, or even try your hand at making your own wine.
Grape Pests And Diseases
A common pest of grapes grown in greenhouses is red spider mite. The mites thrive in hot, dry conditions and can devastate a plant if allowed to spread. Maintaining good hygiene will reduce the problem. Misting the plant will increase humidity (creating adverse conditions for the pest), however humidity can also hamper the quality of the berries.