Growing A Northern Vineyard


Grapes. Grapes. Grapes. So cool you can grow your own. Wild, unidentified grapes cover my woods and loop across my driveway in the summer, making the property particularly appealing to the eye. Did you know, established grape vines can live up to 2000 years old?! Fascinating. I wanted to grow some easy table grapes- not really interested in the wine variety ones (yet) since there are a few wineries around me. The varieties I chose were Somersets (seedless light pinkish red delicious table grape) and Concords (not seedless but superior in flavor and great for juicing).

Starting a mini-vineyard takes a bit of planning and space. The sticks that are sent to you must be planted 8 feet from one another and 8 feet from the other side as well. The reason is because when you trellis them, I have chose to 4 cane trellis, it gives them room to branch out.

Let's talk about how I am training my grapevines to grow productively. It's called, as previously mentioned, the 4 cane approach. It's basically posts set 20 feet apart with galvanized steel wire ran between them, one at 3 feet off the ground, and another 5-6 feet off the ground. 

 4 cane grape trellis 

The first year is spent getting the trunk of the grape to grow straight and pruning back all but one stem and allowing it to weave it's way up to the first line on the the trellis. I am using bamboo to help it grow straight and a piece of twine attached to the branch and wire so it knows where it should be headed. Once it reaches the trellis (year 2), the branch splits off in each direction and curls it's way around the wire, with my help, reaching further and further along. After grapevines have been established, pruning at the end of season each year is critical to the amount of fruit it produces. Pruning other branches off and leaving just the 4 canes will force the effort of growth into the established ones resulting in higher yields of fruit. Pruning is always done while the plant is dormant. It's kind of like going into surgery, you don't want to be awake for it :) After you are into your 3rd year, production of fruit should be starting with the trunk and vines trained. I can't wait for the beauty of the leaves and grapes to cascade off the trellis' and be picked for fresh eating. These are my grape plants right now. This particular one is a concord grape and has 6 buds on it. I need to remove the buds so it can focus on upward growth. 

 concord grape 
Now I will attach the cane to a bamboo stick and tie part of a cut up old t-shirt (really soft on the cane to eliminate cutting into it while growing) around the vines to help guide them to the first trellis.  

6/5/2013 3:05:12 PM

Meg, I believe it's admirable that you have chosen to input in the lives of your children instead of pursuing a career. Our next generation will need to be equipped in ways that are being lost in the current culture. In my humble opinion, it's important to teach young kids about where food comes from and how to provide it for ourselves. Some day in the near future survival may depend on it. Growing grapes always seemed to me to be some thing that required patience. I'm more of a radish kind of guy. Quick to sprout and quick to harvest. :0) I'm getting better but I just haven't reached the level of waiting several years until harvesting can begin. Maybe with my new venture into gardening on a larger scale that quality will be cultivated. Good luck with your grape growing. Have a great in the vineyard.

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