Grapes are one of the easiest fruits to grow. Because they are a vine, not a tree, they can be grown on a fence or wall without taking up any room or shading your other plants. If you don’t have a suitable support, an easy one can be made from some wire and poles and is an attractive way to divide one part of the garden from another without needing to plant a hedge. Another great use for a grape vine is to cover an arbor over a seating area, where the vine will give cool shade all summer, grapes in fall and let in the sun during winter – the perfect combination.
The Concord grape is the hardiest of grapes and so it is the perfect choice for anyone gardening in cooler regions, as well as for anyone who wants to enjoy the juice and jelly of the classic American grape. It is self-fertile so just one plant will let you enjoy a big crop of deep-purple bunches of delicious grapes. If you are looking for a white grape that is almost as hardy, the Niagara grape is a close relative and is an excellent all-purpose white grape.
Growing Concord Grapes
The Concord grape vine grows throughout all of zone 5 all the way through zone 9, so it can be grown in all but the coldest parts of the country. It is especially popular for the north-east and the number one choice for colder regions. The plant is a vigorous vine that can grow many feet in length but your vine should be kept pruned for maximum production, so a mature vine is going to cover 6 to 10 feet of fence or support. To cover an arbor, plant a vine at each corner. For a very large arbor you should also plant a vine in the center of each side.
Planting and Initial Care
Grapes grow best in a sunny position with at least 8 hours of sunshine each day. Sun is especially important in fall to ripen the fruit. The soil does not have to be very rich and should be well-drained. In fact vines do well even on poor soil and are an excellent choice is you have rocks in your soil. Grapes are drought-resistant once established but watering during very dry spells will increase your yield. Your Concord grape will begin to bear fruit in just a couple of years after planting and vines live to a great age.
Once you have chosen a suitable spot, enrich the soil with some organic material like garden compost or rotted manure or even rotted leaves. Dig a hole three times wider than the pot and place your vine at the same depth in the hole as it was in the pot. Put back most of the soil, water well and when the water has drained away replace the rest of the soil. Water your new vine well each week during the first growing season and then when the soil is dry. See our general section on Grapes for tips on building a support system and for directions on how to prune your Concord grape vine.
The Concord grape is a climbing plant or vine that produces strong, thick stems as it ages. The stems will twine around any support and young stems also have tendrils, which are modified leaves that curl around anything they come into contact with. Older stems are covered with a peeling, brown bark. The leaves are large, up to 8 inches long and the same across and are lobed like a hand, with scalloped edges.
The flowers appear in clusters in the spring and are not very conspicuous. They develop into bunches of grapes, which at first are green and turn purple in late September. It takes around 115 days from flowering to harvest. Each bunch of Concord grapes will be around 5 ounces in weight, but each vine will produce 10 or 15 pounds of grapes – quite a harvest. The Concord grape is a deep purple color, with a white powder, called ‘bloom’ on it. It makes the classic grape juice and is also the best variety to use for jelly. It can be eaten fresh or turned into wine. You can tell when the grapes are ready to pick when the skin changes color and when the seeds turn from green to brown.
History and Origins of the Concord Grape
When the first settlers came to America they brought their favorite grape-vine varieties with them from Europe. But they did not grow well, so pioneers looked for ways to improve them. The wild American Grape (Vitis labrusca) grew very well and was hardy, so in 1849 a farmer called Ephraim Wales Bull, who lived in Concord, Massachusetts, planted some seeds from wild grapes, picked the best seedling and called it ‘Concord’.
Genetic analysis has shown that it was actually a hybrid and is ⅓ European grape, probably from pollen from a nearby variety called ‘Catawba’ that Bull was growing. ‘Catawba’ is also a famous very early hybrid of the American and the European grape. Since Concord is such a special grape, it must be grown from branches taken directly from plants of the right variety. It will not grow from seed, so beware of cheap seedling vines that will only be a disappointment.
Our Concord grape vines are true to type and we are constantly getting new stock so that our customers receive the best, freshest plants. However this very popular variety is often in short supply, so order now to avoid disappointment.