Growing Colorado Grapes
By Jodi Torpey
Colorado may not be as well-known as grape-growing regions in other parts of the country, but gardeners along the Front Range can still grow great grapes. It takes a little extra planning, preparation and patience, but it’s worth it. Grapes are a versatile fruit for making juice, jam, jelly and eating fresh off the vine
The key to growing grapes in Colorado is to plan ahead for our frustrating weather extremes with smart site selection and the grape varieties that do well in our region.
A great new grape that’s gaining in popularity is a Plant Select recommendation for the Rocky Mountain region. Saint Theresa Seedless Grape is a sweet table grape, similar to a Concord, that produces large clusters of grapes in September. Gardeners up to elevations of 8,000 feet can grow this hardy grape.
Other table grape varieties to grow in Colorado include:
- Swenson Red
- Swenson White
Grapes like sun, so select a sunny site for planting, preferably a warm, protected area, like a south-facing slope or the south side of the house. Make sure the site has a convenient water source, and keep grapes away from the lawn so you can control the amount of water they get.
Look for short-season grape varieties, about 150 days or less, but plan on providing frost protection so plants have enough time in fall to maximize fruit production.
Grape plants like deep, well-drained, salt-free soil. Dig the planting hole at least three feet deep and large enough to spread the plant’s roots without bending them.
Developing a healthy root system is the primary focus the first two growing years. Grapes will be produced in the third year and by the fourth or fifth year the vines should be at full production.
One of the mistakes backyard Colorado grape growers make is not pruning the vines or pruning them incorrectly, once they’re established. Pruning begins in the third year and helps ensure the vines receive enough sunlight for the grapes to ripen. Expect grape harvests in August or September, depending on the variety.
Mulch heavily in winter to protect against fluctuating temperatures and drying winds. Remove the mulch in summer.
Start now and with some care, you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of leafy green grape vines in summer, delicious grapes for your table in fall and attractive bare vines as a backdrop for your garden through winter.