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At the end of Spring I planted a grape vine along our trellis/fence. In the early summer, it grew about 6 inches and got a ton of leaves (and even some tiny little grapes). In the past month though, it has been getting more and more brown spots, as visible in the picture. It also hasn't grown noticeably in the past month.

There are a few environmental factors that may be at play here:

  1. It has been very hot. We have had a few weeks in the 90s all week and I don't think the high has been below 85 all month.
  2. We've been light on rain. We have had a few storms, not not as frequent as usual. I have tried to compensate with more water though.
  3. Our soil is garbage (outside of Denver, CO). I did follow the instructions and dig a hole about twice as big around and about 6 inches deeper than the root bundle and filled it in with high-quality planting soil.

My questions are:

  • Does this plant look dangerously unhealthy?
  • Is there anything else I can do to help it?
  • Did I make a bad choice planting grapes in this environment?

enter image description here

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    Daniel, a few questions first; have you fertilized this plant with anything? Did you put rocks at the bottom of the hole for drainage? I noticed a lot of the articles on grape vine care advising to do just that as well as using potting soil. Rocks and potting soil in caliche clay? would make a 'swimming pool' effect. I don't think that is what is wrong with your vine, I think it is fertilizer, deficiencies in Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Any plant you want to get established after planting needs consistent hand watering. Grapes thrive in heat once they are established. – stormy Jul 12 '18 at 20:14
  • It looks scortched, but shouldn't be at only 90s, so not sure. – FuzzyChef Jul 12 '18 at 20:38
  • @Fuzzychef - If it looks scorched, it may be. The sun is super intense at our altitude. The vine is on the less intense side of the house, but my lawn on the other side is scorched to a crispy death every year. I have some sun shade option like stormy mentions below and I can certainly try that. – Daniel Jul 12 '18 at 21:38
  • @stormy: The instructions I had did not suggest rocks, so I didn't. Sounds like that was fortuitous. – Daniel Jul 12 '18 at 21:47
  • Yes, fortuitous! Please let us know how your plant responds within a week? – stormy Jul 12 '18 at 22:11
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Have you checked the moisture around your plant? I would stick my hose right down into the root ball and soak the root ball. Check to see how the water drains, it should disappear quickly. For this baby plant I'd get a chunk of shade screen and tack it to the fence above this plant, drape it over the plant during this hot hot weather. You can roll it up when the weather cools down a bit. Hoe the weeds off and dump decomposed compost on the soil. That will keep the roots cooler, moisture more regular.

A little fertilizer is necessary for all plants. Osmocote 14-14-14 would work nicely. It is extended release so it is allowing a little N, P and K to be available to your plant, not too much and lasts for 6 months. Do half of what the directions tell you. Where fertilizer is concerned, 'Less is Best, More is Death and None is Dumb'. My dumb ditty but important to remember.

Fertilizer is not 'food' for plants, plants make their own food via photosynthesis. All those grapes take some major photosynthesis happening to produce all of those leaves and fruit and if those chemicals plants need for their photosynthesis factories (chlorophyll) are not available in the soil the plant's factories shut down (yellow). If there isn't the correct amount of NPK plus minuscule amounts of a dozen other chemicals on the periodic table plants will die slowly. Add a little too much and those plants will die very quickly.

Water, shade and a little balanced fertilizer should revive this plant. Compost is a great weed suppressor/killer. Compost if decomposed will be then available to the macro and micro soil organisms for energy, food. They eat then go back into the soil (only the top 6" of soil has enough air) and poop it out mixing the organic material into your soil. All soil is good soil, even (gag me) caliche clay. You need to get to know your soil and the best management practices for your soil.

The bottom of your fence looks too close to the soil and plants. There should be a minimum of two inches below that bottom rail of your fence and the surface of the soil, mulch...rocks. I hope I am on the right track making assumptions here and that this makes sense.

  • Thanks so much! There is so much good info in there. I don't know if the soil I used has fertilizer in - I will check and if not I will add some. I also have stuff to use for sunshade and I can follow your suggestions on watering as well. – Daniel Jul 12 '18 at 21:40
  • Yay!! Hope this helps, Daniel. Grapes do great in horrid soil, not so much when they are babies and not established. And I shouldn't have said that. I stand on a soap box that says all soils are great, just need to know how to manage! – stormy Jul 12 '18 at 21:45
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It is not dangerous unhealthy, but I think you should fertilize the plant and the soil much much more. Together to chemicals (which are quick to release stuff), I would dig some holes near (but not touching the roots) and put manure. This will help to have some low release fertilizer, so that you are not in emergency every year.

What did you had before planting the vine? Grass? To me it seems also a big deficiency of Boron (often found on "new soil", especially after meadow).

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