How to protect Grapevines from a late frost

I'm fairly new to grape growing. There were a grapevine here when we bought the place and thus started my grape growing adventure. At the time it was fairly obvious even to a beginner like me, that the previous owners hadn't had much luck with these grapes. 

Grape vines protected from frost

There was 1 nice sized vine, but 2 very obvious spots where vines had failed to grow. Of course the first thing I do is try to replace them. 1 grew, 1 died off. The next year I replaced that grapevine also and now have the 3 growing well. 

Though I tried to learn how to prune the grapevines correctly via google info, my vines didn't need much care at all. I watered them when I watered the garden and dumped some compost around the base of the vines. They produced a lot of grapes for me every year so I must have been doing something right. Right?

Related reading: How to make and can Grape Jam.

This went on for another year or so until last year when the grape vines didn't produce at all. This seemed weird to me because I remember seeing the little baby grape clusters in the spring. They're so darn cute I always stop to look at them. So why didn't any of them develop into grapes? 

Tiny grape clusters on the vine

I puzzled about it for awhile till I spoke to another local who told me the late May frost we had killed off all the grapes. *sigh* Now I know. Fast forward to this spring when everything is moving right along....warming up and starting to grow. 

Suddenly the news report calls for 2 nights of frost. What to do? I made grapevine ghosts out of bed sheets of course! It worked...and it works for other plants too!

Protecting grapevines from a late frost

It's simple enough to keep the baby grape clusters safe from a light frost. Just toss something over them to cover them and provide a barrier between the grape vine and the frigid air. The first time it happened I used old bed sheets. Funny looking, but it worked. Clip the ends closed with lightweight close pins or binder clips. 

About a week later, it decides to freeze overnight again. This time I cover them at night with plastic, felt lined tablecloths. Still use the clamps or close pins to hold them shut on the ends and bottom. The tablecloths were easier to use and seemed like they sat on top of the vines instead of weighing them down. The moisture also seemed to bead on them and roll off unlike the sheets which got a bit damp. Unfortunately the tablecloths are smaller than the sheets. Maybe I'll get some larger ones for next year, but I'm really hoping this is the end of it for now. 

Covered grape vines

A quick glance at the weather forecast tells me it shouldn't freeze for at least 10 days. By then it will be June and I'm pretty sure we'll be out of frost season by then! I always figure out my last frost date before I plant seedlings, but unfortunately that doesn't help with perennials. They just need a little protection though!

Since I was outside uncovering the vines I decided to check the damage.  During the first frost I had made the mistake of putting the sheets on in the evening and leaving them on for 2 nights. The very tops of the leaves had been damaged and I had to prune them a little. 

This time I removed the cloths each day and there was no more damage. The grapes themselves are looking good. They look like healthy little clusters to me. That's good news considering the grape vines were planted way too close to the tree line. A fact I found out when I decided to make a sun map of my property.

Hopefully they will produce enough for me to make grape jam again this year. Yummmm!


Related reading: Want more information on organic gardening? Check out this collection of articles on gardening.

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  1. Good luck! I have a grapevine and it really amazes me that the clusters form this early on.

    1. I know! Aren't they so tiny and perfect though? Amazing!