Purchasing and Planting
Grapes are sold as rooted cuttings (referred to as "own-rooted" plants) or grafted plants. Both usually are sold as bare-root dormant plants, which should be planted in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Only the European grapes require grafting since they are susceptible to the root louse phylloxera, which is ubiquitous in our soils. Grafting onto a resistant rootstock takes care of this problem.
Most grape plants will be rooted cuttings, but note that grapes are also propagated easily from dormant cane cuttings. Collect dormant wood (pencil thickness, exposed to full sun) in December and store it in a cold, but not freezing, place until spring, making sure to note which end of the cuttings is "up." The plants will not root if put in the soil upside down. In the spring, put two nodes of the cutting into friable, moist, well-drained soil, and keep the cuttings watered. Rooting generally will occur in 4 weeks or so. Transplant the following spring to the desired site.
Regardless of whether you buy or propagate your own plants, plant them in a large hole with the roots 4 to 6 inches below the soil surface, pruning off damaged roots and spreading the remainder. Prune back to one cane, and leave only two to three nodes on each cane. After shoot growth begins and the danger of spring frost is past, remove all but the two strongest shoots (Figure 6.1). Be sure to keep the new vines watered and weeded, and remove all flower clusters in this first year. Remember that your first goal is to establish the plant. A well-established grapevine that is well adapted to its climate will produce fruit for 50 years or more! Vines can be staked as needed, and the desired trellis system can be erected during the summer or the fall. How the plants are supported is up to the individual, of course; the grape plant adapts graciously to most forms. A standard trellis used in commercial vineyards is about 6 feet tall, with wires at 3 and 6 feet to support the grapes. Be sure to monitor and control insect and disease pests.