Even if you enjoy seedless grapes, you may be wondering how to grow grapes from seeds. Grape seeds are a somewhat picky variety to grow, but so juicy and rewarding in the end. If you’re ready to enjoy your own rows of sprawling grapevines and little green, red, or purple jewels, keep reading to learn how to help grape seeds prosper all the way to harvest.
How to Grow Grapes from Seed
When planning to grow grape seeds, it’s important that you can identify viable and non-viable seeds. Non-viable seeds have been improperly stored or have been in storage so long that they will no longer germinate. Grape seeds can remain viable for a season or two, and sometimes as long as three seasons, but most will be non-viable after that.
Proper storage of grape seeds involves ensuring that they have been cold stratified. Cold stratification is a process that simulates the experience of a seed that is lying dormant in winter.
In order to determine if your grape seeds are viable, drop them into a glass of water. Healthy seeds with germinating potential will sink to the bottom, while seeds that float to the top are hollow and non-viable. Simply remove the non-viable seeds and gather up the viable ones.
Even if you’ve found yourself some viable grape seeds, remember that the variety they came from may not be true to seed. “True to seed” is a phrase that refers to whether a plant will grow with the same genetic characteristics as its parent plant. Many novice gardeners believe that the seeds they gather from a parent plant will look and taste just like their predecessor. This is not necessarily the case.
Plant genetics require diversity to survive in changing environmental conditions across generations. For this reason, your grape seeds may have inherited traits that cause them to grow entirely differently than the plants they were harvested from.
In most cases, if you want to grow grapes that are identical to a parent variety, then it’s best to transplant a grapevine cutting instead. If you’re interested in experimenting or cultivating your own grape variety, keep reading to learn how to grow grapes from seeds.
Can You Grow Store-Bought Grape Seeds?
If you purchased grape seeds from a local vendor, they may already be cold stratified. If you harvested grape seeds from store-bought grapes, prepare for a genetic gamble (after you cold stratify them).
To harvest grape seeds from the fruit, choose grapes that are fully ripe. Cut them in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds from the center with the point of a freshly-washed knife, or with a fingernail of your freshly-washed hands. Don’t harm the seeds as you extract them, and rinse them thoroughly to remove all traces of pulp from their exteriors.
Place the seeds into a container full of water to soak for 24 hours, discarding any non-viable seeds that float to the top.
1. Choosing Your Grape Seeds
Do you intend to eat your grapes fresh, transform them into jams and jellies, or ferment them in luxurious wines? Whatever your grape-growing intentions are, be sure to grow the right variety to meet your needs.
Also, determine the Plant Hardiness Zone that you’re in so that you can grow grape seeds that thrive in the area. Many backyard gardeners grow American, European, and French-American hybrid grapes. The US also contains a series of successful wild grape cultivars native to the South.
Acquire quality grape seeds from local nurseries, farmers, or online distributors. If the seeds aren’t clearly labeled as cold stratified, ask your provider about it before you purchase.
Growing grapes requires patience, as the plants may take two to seven years to produce fruit. Organic seeds from reputable vendors are the best option.
2. Preparing Your Grape Seeds
If you’re using seeds that you harvested yourself, follow the process of soaking the seeds for 24 hours. The next day, drain the viable seeds you have remaining (up to 50) and place them into an airtight bag or small container with about a tablespoon of moist peat moss. You can also substitute damp paper towels, sand, or vermiculite for peat moss.
Note that peat moss is the best choice of these, as it has anti-fungal traits that protect your seeds from mold.
Close the container and allow the seeds to rest in storage (such as a refrigerator) at temperatures of 35° F to 40° F for about three months. Do not freeze the grapes.
This is the cold stratification process that mimics the period of winter dormancy necessary for grape seeds to germinate. Ideally, you can begin this process in December (in the northern hemisphere) to time the growth of your seeds with the natural seasons.
After 90 to 120 days have passed, bring the seeds into a warm environment (roughly 85° F to 90° F) for two days to increase the likelihood of germination.
Make a garden bed for your seeds. Use sterile seed-starting mix that has been pre-moistened to plant seeds individually in small pots or together in trays with ample drainage holes. Sow the seeds three times as deep as their length, at a spacing of about two inches, and allow them to receive 16 hours of light a day.
Keep the soil damp but not wet. Most viable seeds will sprout in two weeks, although some may require over two months. Ensure that their daytime temperature remains around 70° F and that nighttime temperatures stay at approximately 60° F. This makes springtime, after the last frost, the best time for planting seeds outdoors.
Warming mats keep your indoor seeds at a suitable temperature, and misting the surface of the soil will deliver the right amount of moisture when your containers start to dry.
It’s advisable to keep grapes indoors or in a greenhouse until they’re a foot tall, with healthy roots, and at least a handful of leaves. When your seedlings are three inches tall, transplant them to pots at least four inches deep. Move the individual seedlings into tall, one-gallon pots when they are six-weeks-old.
3. Knowing Where and When to Grow Grapes
You can adjust your indoor grape plants to the outdoors by placing their containers in a shady location for a few hours each day before bringing them back inside. Progressively introduce them to more sunlight exposure until you feel that they are ready to plant.
Grapes enjoy seven to eight hours of full sun, especially morning and afternoon sun. So ensure that the garden space you prepare for them receives plenty of light.
4. Sowing the Grape Seeds
Prepare your soil by digging a hole that is a foot wide and a foot deep. Fill the lowest inches with loose soil, and add some compost and soil mix.
Place your young plant in the hole, and fill the remaining space with a few inches of soil or soil-compost mix to thoroughly cover the roots. Keep the soil level of your plant about a quarter inch below the soil line, to protect the crown of the plant.
Cut each grapevine back to its lowest two leaf buds, and lightly water around the plant into the first few inches of soil. Gently pat the soil down around the roots, leaving it loose to allow for proper drainage and air circulation. Add a small stake to support the grapevine as it develops.
If you’re planting in rows, ensure that each row is between six and 10 feet apart. If the grapevines are growing along a trellis or other support structure, keep them out of the way of walking feet and paws.
5. Nourishing the Seedlings
You can carefully fertilize your seedlings, starting two weeks after planting and then every other month until autumn. Choose a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 variety, and apply only sparingly. Mix small amounts into the soil, and gradually increase the amount in slight increments at each feeding.
For the first year, discourage any shoots from producing fruit by pruning them. This allows the main stem and roots to become strong. Allow the strongest three shoots of each plant to grow, and remove the rest.
In the second year, begin fertilizing once every spring. Remove shoots and flower clusters that form between your three chosen shoots.
6. Growing Grapevines
For long-term support, you can install metal poles or plant your grapevines near fencing. Although, in the latter scenario, know that the vines may outlive the usability of the fence. Regardless, your grapevines will need a trellis or other form of stability by the time they are entering their second year. As they grow, train the vines to latch onto their support system. This can be aided by tying the vines to rods using string.
Be sure that your trellis or support structure allows your grapevines to receive light from every angle, and that there is easy access to prune and harvest from all sides. Pruning in the springtime ensures a healthier crop in the future.
In year three, you can allow some flower clusters to emerge. Just ensure that you continue to remove low buds and shoots. From here on out, you can continue pruning and fertilizing, allowing the grapevines to produce fruit.
As you see the first fruits of your labor and harvest time approaches, place a net over your grapevines to protect them from hungry birds.
Wrapping Up How to Grow Grapes from Seed
Now that you know how to grow grapes from seed, you can start nurturing your own grapevines or learn even more about growing grapes in your backyard. Choose from a variety of grapes that will yield lovely fruits for your garden. Growing grape seeds is a lengthy yet rewarding process that results in fresh fruits that can be converted into an array of delicious jams, pastries, and beverages. Happy gardening!