Grape vines are resilient plants and make a great addition to most gardens. However, planting your little vineyard can be expensive, so knowing how long you can expect those vines to live is essential. So when, if ever, do grape vines get too old to produce?
Grape vines do get too old to produce. However, grape vines usually produce well for about 25-30 years. After this, grape production significantly decreases. Still, many grapes go on to produce for far longer. For example, the oldest grape vine located in Lent is about 400 years old.
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the lifespans of producing grape vines, what happens to vines as they age, and ways to keep your vines healthy and producing longer. So if you want to learn more about grape vines as they age, read on.
How Long Do Grape Vines Produce Fruit?
As the grape vines age, their ability to produce large amounts of fruit decreases. After the 25-30 year mark, grape vines decrease grape production. However, this decrease doesn’t render the vine useless.
It’s said that older vines produce better quality grapes and these grapes make better wine. So older grapevines can be a benefit in some cases. But, typically, you’ll only want to replace your grape vines when production slows down if you’re planting for large-scale production.
Otherwise, an old grapevine in your garden should produce just fine.
Factors That Affect a Grape Vine’s Lifespan
How long a grape vine lasts varies greatly. Several factors can affect a grape vine’s lifespan, and therefore, its ability to produce fruit:
- The variety of vines planted.
- The grape vine’s location.
- The weather around the vine.
- The vine’s soil drainage.
- The amount of water the grape vine receives.
- The preventative measures taken to keep pests away from the vine.
These are all critical factors that can significantly affect a grape vine. Typically grapes are surprisingly resilient to drought and warm weather. However, without some watering during harsh weather, grape vines will die.
Therefore, to ensure your grape vines continue to produce fruit, even as they age, it’s essential to give them the proper care.
How To Extend a Grape Vine’s Lifespan
Now that you understand more about a grape vine’s lifespan, it’s time to discuss ways to increase it. As with any plant, you can take steps to ensure a grapevine remains healthy and produces for longer.
So what are the best ways to ensure your grapevine lives long and healthy?
Select a Good Variety of Grape Vine
First, if you haven’t already planted your grapes, choosing a vine that has a longer lifespan is a good idea. There are over 60 species of grape vines to choose from, and some produce fruit longer than others.
So what are the best types of vines to grow in your garden? Here are a few:
- American (Vitis labrusca). The American grapevine hail from North America and is extremely popular due to its sweet taste. These grapes are also one of the parent plants used in creating French-American Hybrids. American grapes are a good option because of their resistance to cold weather and hardy genetic makeup.
- European (V. vinifera). Another popular garden grapevine is the European variety. This vine is a fantastic option because it has a long growing season, can withstand hot climates, and requires low humidity. Additionally, this vine is extremely popular amongst winemakers.
- French-American Hybrids. This grapevine is a unique blend of the American and French vine. The grapes are cold-hardy and have thicker skins to protect the fruit. Additionally, this hybrid plant has a higher resistance to diseases and infestations of pests.
Each grape type is a fantastic option to grow in your garden due to its resilience and long lifespan.
Plant Vines in a Good Location
Once your vine type is selected, the next step is finding an excellent location to plant your grape vines. Search for a place in your yard that gets plenty of sun (at least 8 hours per day) and has soil with good drainage. Grapes are susceptible to root rot, so you don’t want water needlessly pooling around their roots.
Ideally, the spot you plant your grapes should be open and away from trees that would cast the plants into shade. Sunlight needs are why grapes are often planted in an open field; this helps them make the most of each day’s light.
Choose a Good Quality Soil
Next, you’ll need to ensure the quality of your grape vines’ soil. You can do this by adding new nutrient-heavy soil to the earth they are planted in. Ensure the new soil has good drainage. Grape vines prefer a pH of 5.5-6.5 so checking your soil’s nutrient level before adding new dirt is ideal.
You can check your soil levels by using a soil test kit. I recommend Luster Leafs Soil Test Kit (available on Amazon.com). This kit is great because it delivers rapid results and comes with over 20 tests. Plus, it tests for PH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potash.
As for fertilization, grape vines seldom need a boost. However, you can fertilize your vines every few months if necessary. Using a 10-10-10 fertilizer is recommended, especially for new vines. Additionally, it’s important to remember that fertilization is best done in early spring.
Prune Grape Vines Regularly
Pruning is essential to ensure your grape vines stay healthy and produce for longer. Grape vines add new growth to their bodies each year that needs to be pruned to make room for next year’s growth.
Typically, you should prune your vines when they’re dormant and only prune back a few nodes on each spur. You’ll need to be careful of disrupting the overall structure of your vines when pruning.
For a more detailed guide on correctly pruning your grape vines, I recommend watching the The_AWRIs YouTube video on pruning grapes as a beginner. They do a great job explaining how to prune your vines and the reason behind each action:
Provide Adequate Plant Support
One of the most important things you can provide your grape vines is proper support. Grapes are climbers and therefore need a structure to climb. Otherwise, they’re weakened by the wind and pests close to the ground.
Vine supports don’t have to be anything fancy. You can easily make supports out of scrap wood or use a fence you already have. Some people like to place their vines along an archway using mesh or metal supports.
It’s important to note that it’s best to keep the vines away from your home structure as they can damage the siding.
Protect Your Vines
Finally, it’s essential to protect your vines from illness and pests. You can do this by regularly spraying your vines with gentle pest deterrents like neem oil. Inspecting your vines for possible infestations will also go a long way in keeping your vines healthy.
Additionally, adding mesh or wiring to keep birds, rodents, and other critters from harming your grape vines is a good idea. Another possible method for animal prevention is utilizing a motion sensor sprinkler that will spray creatures that venture too near your plants.
It’s important to act quickly if you notice pests bothering your vines. Animals or bugs eating the plants can weaken them and reduce their life expectancy.
How Old Is the Oldest Grape Vine?
It’s no secret that grape vines can live for many years. Though these plants typically only procure well for the first 25-30 years of life, many produce at over 100. So, how old is the oldest grapevine, and where is it located?
The oldest grapevine in the world is 400 years old and located in Lent. The vine still produces fruit and was planted in the middle ages during the Turkish invasions. Additionally, this grapevine is the oldest procuring grape vine in the Guinness Book of World Records.
This vine has certainly exceeded most expectations for a grapevine’s life expectancy, and it shows that grapes can live exceptionally long with proper care and the right environment.
Do Older Grape Vines Produce Better Fruit?
Just because grape vines continue to produce fruit into their old age doesn’t mean that the fruit will be good, or does it? Do older grape vines produce better fruit than younger plants?
Older grapevines do produce better fruit. The fruit is said to be sweeter and better suited for wines. However, production does significantly decrease as vines age, which isn’t a problem for wineries that sell a limited stock of specific wines. So if your grape plant is getting old, you shouldn’t throw it out.
Also, established grapes are incredibly hardy, and their fruit is sweet. Therefore, the only reason to replace old grape vines is if they stop producing or you grow grapes massively, like for farming purposes.
Grape vines can get too old to produce fruit. However, because of grape vines’ extended life expectancy, it’s unlikely that a vine you plant will fail in your lifetime. A well-cared-for grape vine is likely to live and produce fruit for 30-120 years or longer. How long your grape vines live will come down to the care and nutrients they receive.