Whether you have a few grapevines in your backyard or you have acres and acres of grape-producing vines, knowing when and how to harvest the grapes is critical to success. If the grapes are not ready or the harvest is not done correctly, the crop can be a failure.
Grapes must be mature before they can be harvested. This is important because the fruit will not mature any further after being removed from the vine. Grapes generally mature from late August to late October, depending on the variety of the grapes. Use these facts to check for maturity:
- Watch for color changes such as green to blue or red to white.
- Seed color changes from green to brown.
- Grapes will reach full size.
- Grapes will become sweet. The only way to test this is to taste them.
After determining that the grapes are mature and ready, then it is time to harvest them (if the weather is cooperating). There are two types of harvesting, by hand or with machinery. Hand harvesting is generally the method used when harvesting a small amount of vines, but is also done when harvesting larger crops.
How to harvest grapes by hand:
- Use picking shears that have been sharpened and oiled.
- Locate mature cluster on grape plants.
- Hold the cluster away from the vine and cut it with part of the stem still attached.
- Place cut cluster on harvest tray or in basket.
Harvesting with a machine is done on larger--usually commercial--operations. Harvesting machines are either self-propelled or pull-type. Self-propelled come in different sizes, such as 110 hp, 133 hp and 166 hp with 6 cylinder or 6 cylinder turbo engines that are either air cooled or liquid cooled. The benefits of using a machine instead of hand picking are:
- Harvesting can be done at night when temperatures are lowest or stormy weather sets in to threaten the crop.
- Harvesting is quicker and can be done when grapes are at the optimum ripeness.
- Harvesting is cleaner because of the suction fans, which remove any leaves from the grapes.
After harvesting, grapes are ready to for use, either for making jellies, jams, juices and wines, or just for eating. If they are kept cool, they will easily last for up to a week. Remember, no matter how well grow or care for your grape vines, the result can depend on the grape harvest and the containers you use for storage. The difference between a profitable year and a disastrous year rides on the harvest occurring when all conditions are right, from the condition of the grapes to the weather.