Grape growing in northern areas

I would like to plant a row of grapes next year. I’ve done a little research and it seems cane pruning is the best instead of spur pruning. Does anyone have recommendations for a trellis system or style of growing?

Watching some videos from the Maine extension it looks like they’re promoting the umbrella kniffin. I was thinking that or high cordon.

I’m thinking more table grapes vs wine if that makes any difference.


Great question that I also look forward to reading the responses on.

Grapes are really heavy but not as heavy as kiwi plants but still require heavy support. In Kansas ive seen people use hedge posts aka osage orange posts, steal oil pipes etc. People use steel cable for wire or more commonly people use red tip barb wire whicg is very strong. I used hedge posts and 5’ woven wire.Concord seedless like concord should be renamed reliable!


Just be sure that the variety of grape you want to grow will put out canes that are abundant, long, and multi-directional. I planned on cane pruning my grapes, but found that spur training was more easily performed. I have Jupiter, Somerset Seedless, and Steuben.

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I grow Concord grapes on wire. I use a 4 arm kniffen system for training/pruning. My vines are spaced 8’ apart. I use 12 gauge wire. Top wire is at 5’ and the bottom wire is at 3’. If I built it again I would put the wires at 4’ and 6’. 3’ in height is a bit low. I do not recall how far apart my fence posts are. We used old telephone poles for the posts as they were free. Instead of running one continuous wire on top and another on bottom, I prefer to run separate wires the distance between each post with a turnbuckle on each end. That way if one should ever break the whole system does not fall down. Maybe not needed as I never had a wire break but the weight can get to be a lot.

This year was fabulous as I got a bushel on average from each vine! Way more grapes than I need. Plenty for Juice/jelly. Some ended up fermenting for wine as I didn’t have any other use for them. Not a huge fan of Concord wine but I will drink to my health anyway.

Table grapes? I grew Reliance for several years. I enjoyed the fruit but eventually lost the vines one winter after getting -18 degrees. I would think some of the seeded table grapes would be more cold hardy such as Swenson Red or Edelweiss.

King of the North is popular with friends of mine in Northern WI due to its cold hardiness and early ripening dates. I am told King of the North makes a superb juice that is even better than juice from Concord grapes. So my friends claim as some have grown both for juice.

How do you like Somerset? That’s one I was looking at getting. Spur pruning does look easier. I think the main reason was because of the potential for winter die back.

Other than the height are you happy with that system? I’m hoping to do a row about 50’ long. It’s on the south side of my house so it’ll get full sun all day. That’s a good point about the wire breaking. I bought some high tensile fence wire to use for various trellises. I planted some raspberries too. That plus a fence tightener and maybe a spring on the end.

King of the North is one I have on my list. A couple more I am considering are: Somerset seedless and Bluebell. I really like the flavor of Concords, but am worried they might be a little too late to produce well here. I may plant a wine grape too. Knowing me I’ll probably want to try to make wine sometime in the future anyway. I was thinking Frontenac or Frontenac Gris.

I planted some grapes a couple years ago. They’re in a spot that gets shade part of the day, no water, and I haven’t really been taking care of them. So, I want to try and do it right this time and get them growing well.

For the first year I may not even put up a trellis, just focus on growth. I just want to get an idea for spacing and training.

Bluebell is a blue seeded grape brought out by U of MN I believe during the 1940’s and did not catch on in popularity. It was greatly promoted by John Marshall in Lake City Minnesota when I lived in that town 28 years ago. He got many nurseries in Minnesota to start growing it. It is far hardier than Concord for northern areas. The yield is less than Concord but it works well for growers in short growing seasons and cold winters.

Yes I am fairly happy with my grape system. The reason I do not like the bottom wire at 3’ is because later in the season with all the fruit, the fruit is mighty close to the ground. I am unable to do any herbicide spraying during that time of year and must resort to hand weeding if needed. Normally I spray roundup under my grapevines early in May when the weeds are growing but the grapes are just budding out or not even budded yet. Then I do a second application in late June/early July before the grapes on the bottom wire get too low.

My second issue with one wire at 3’ and the other at 5’ is the lack of space between the 2 causes the bottom wire being more shaded out. I definitely get a higher yield on the top wire than the bottom wire.
A few minor nuances but I still got plenty of grapes anyway with my setup.

I am a HUGE fan of wine from Frontenac grapes! Kudos to Peter Hemsted and all at the U of MN grape breeding program for developing such fine wine grapes for northern areas. I have tried Marquette too but I prefer wine made from Frontenac (just my taste preference).

I only grow my grapes using the 4 arm kniffen system in tribute to my grandfather as he always grew all his grapes that way. I have contact with a wine and concord grape (juice market) grower in Oregon
who is a friend of the family. He always chastises me for using the kniffen system and claims I would have a higher yield pruning with some method he suggested. Maybe so but I am getting all the grapes I need so very happy with pruning to a 4 arm Kniffen system (leave a total of 40-50 buds per plant).

I like Somerset very much. It is an early grape, seedless, good flavor, and disease resistant. The only real knock against it is that the grapes are small.

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I too have just started to look into grapes but I live in South Louisiana. Do any of you know of varieties of grapes that will handle the crazy humidity and rain that we get? I am just starting my search. Thanks for any information that you may have

You sold me on planting some Frontenac varieties! Have you tasted Bluebell at all to know if it tastes like a Concord?

That makes sense if you’re spraying. Sounds like good productivity. Same with me, I don’t think I’d probably need to maximize production for just my own use.

I know nothing of Southern grapes. I do know that Muscadines are popular: Growing Muscadines in South Louisiana


I once tried some grape juice from Bluebell that John Marshall had made. However, I did not have Concord juice to compare it with at the same time. The juice was good is all I can remember.

Do avoid planting Fredonia grape. While it ripens early september, it is not as winter hardy as you need. It can suffer some cane death in cold winters Large fruit but not foolproof that far North. A friend in Ripon, WI grows it. Loves the grape but had it die to the ground this past winter. To his joy, it shot up new growth after he went and planted replacement vines near it this past June. Fredonia here is southern WI sometimes has issues with bud damage in a cold winter too. It does ok most years as far south as I am in the state.

Thanks, good is good enough to try. Good to know. I’ve been reading there’s some training techniques you can use for sensitive varieties by growing them close to the ground and mulching. I’m not sure that it’s worth it for what I’m wanting though.

I met a commercial grower in Quebec who’s growing vinifera low to the ground and protecting it in the winter by covering with a felt like material.


I am still researching and will know more. I am really hoping to get grapes. Don’t get me wrong, I do like muscadines but they are not the same. Thank you though

Hah, I can help.

Been growing in 4b Canada (3x USDA) winters down to -34c.

In my climate i recommend to grow multi-trunk because you will lose trunks.

I have raccoons so grow on a Geneva double curtain to make it harder for them. I also get good sun exposure and airflow. Search my posts for more info. I grow 4 trunks and renew 1 trunk per year or so.

I grow no spray so cane pruning is best for me to avoid a crowded canopy. When I tried spur pruning the airflow decreased so much I had explosion of mildew.

Bomb proof grapes are Somerset and Bluebell. Only year 2 for these 2 but Brianna and Roland are looking promising. Trollhaugen is up there too. Concord does not die back but I don’t get fruit every year. Candice ripens too late and dies. Vanessa is slightly hardier than Reliance but both would regularly die back to ground. Reliance also seemed to have more issue with powdery mildew. Im also trialing Swenson Red and White, Petite jewel, Kay gray, but it is too early to tell. Valient is small, seedy and sucks compared to others.

Thaw is 1st to 3rd week April with first frost usually 1st week October.

Somerset ripe late August to early sept.
Trollhaugen early sept
Vanessa and Reliance mid to late sept
Roland looks to be mid sept (only couple grapes this year)
Brianna looks to be mid-late sept (only couple grapes this year)
Bluebell and Concord late sept to early October with bluebell about 1-2 weeks before concord.

Somerset is slightly spicy, super sweet and strawberry flavoured.

Bluebell is quite concord like. Skin perhaps a bit thicker with a slight tendancy to split.


Be careful with Pierce’s Disease in the south. It is devastating. I had it so bad that I went to the my county extension office with it. They did some lab work to confirm it as PD. Told me to try the Saturn variety. Could not find it in the stores though. Concords has some resistance in my experience.

PD wiped me out of table grapes. It is a killer. Now growing muscadines.


Typically Vitis vinifera are spur pruned on low codons with catch wires above the cordon as they have shorter canes with more upright growth. French American hybrids and American varieties are grown on high trellises with single or double cordons as they have tend to have longer canes that hang down. Your desired table grapes should be trellis on a high cordon 6’ or Geneva Double Curtain. My hybrid vineyard in Iowa used 8’ PT posts with a 6’ top wire and a second catch wire at 3’. I trained my vines to a single trunk using 4’ stakes for the first year; after that the trunks were tall enough to reach the top wire and start my cordons.

Good luck with the vineyard.



Mars is extremely hardy. Went thru -33 F here and at my Mom’s and at a friend’s garden. I got to taste Mars at my friend’s and I really liked it.