Five years ago when our veggie beds were first planted I had also requested that the north wall of the garden be set up for my future grape trellis. I spent considerable time searching information on the how-to’s of raising table grapes. I did not want to end up with the ornamental grape-less vines I often saw. I wanted to grow true edible grapes.
Living in a valley that was once known for growing grapes that supported quite a few wineries for decades I knew that I shouldn’t fear climate as a possible deterrent. And as for the ornamental vines that never really produced an edible grape cluster………well, now I know……… there is a purpose to choosing the right variety as well as getting the vine to produce the fruit. And it was going to take a few years…….4 to 5 years to be truthful!
I did some in- depth research for several months on selecting a variety of grape that would be suitable for my climate zone. As there were actually several choices, I wanted a seedless and the heartiest as I was going to commit to 3 to 4 years of managing and watering a plant that was not going to give immediate results.
Well into my researching, I stumbled onto a website and actually ended up purchasing the E-book ( my first and only one ) from this guy who grows grapes in South Africa! A comparable planting zone. He calls himself “The Grape Guy”, and from this E-book I learned there are 10 classes of grapes (the vitaceae) family, and only 1 is considered efficient as a table (edible) grape and for wine-making. These are from the “Vitus-class” of which there are approximately 32 species, “Vitus Vinifera” the European species and “Vitus Labruska” the American species. Are you with me so far? The American species and most if not all European species are now grafted onto disease resistant root stock which are the Vitus Vinifera or Vitus Labruska and Riparia. All because of the deadly root disease “Phylloxera” that attacked and killed off 2/3rds of Europe’s vineyards in the 1800’s!
Because hubby and I enjoy eating both green seedless and red seedless grapes, I chose a Thompson seedless (European grafted) and a Flame seedless (American developed here in California) variety of the vitus family……. both popular grape varieties sold in our local grocery stores. They were planted in the spring of 2008. Did you know that the grapes we buy in the stores have been grown with a grape hormone to make them larger than mother nature would normally. Growers use the growth hormone gibberellic acid, not more watering or better fertilizer , to plump up the crop, all the more reason you might like to plant your own grapevines.
When the vines are planted they need to be managed as they grow. One cannot just start clipping and chopping at the tendrils. In the first few years, the center trunk is allowed to grow up and shoots from each side are chosen to be the main arms that will be trained horizontally to grow into what are called the “cane bearers”. Then on to developing the fruiting shoots and spurs. All this has taken 3 years and patience. Even during the first growing years the vine will produce grapes but I was warned to pinch them off and NOT to let them mature because the vine itself needs to mature first! Really hard to do!
Believe me……. I have followed my E-book how-to’s almost to the letter! I have made some boo-boo’s however. I planted my vines against a wall…….not recommended but I wanted to disguise an ugly wall and so far the vines seem to like where I put them. I have also made mistakes in cutting shoots that are still a bit unrecognizable to me. Last fall I even removed the Thompson vine…..possibly by mistake……… because I think I pruned it improperly as I had not seen it produce any fruit in the 3 years so far. I referred to my E-book and I think I had made a pruning mistake and most likely could have re- developed the vine.
Anyway, this early spring was year 4. With E-book in one hand and pruning shears in my other hand I carefully and diligently snipped at my Flame vine leaving just the right amount of spurs per shoot, managed the shoots and leaf growth, crossed my fingers and watched . AND OH MY GOODNESS! I have grapes……. FINALLY!!!!
I couldn’t bare it! I have already plucked a few ripe little globes off the sets! So far surprisingly good! The grapes will also be quite sizable and of course hubby and I will be proud to eat these beautiful globes of Flame seedless grapes!
And so far I am also enjoying my new grape arbor…..made by hubby…….. and have even planted tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, basil and a melon in the missing space that used to hold my Thompson. I am contemplating planting a new Thompson vine next spring and hoping to make fewer mistakes.
As unpredictable as gardening is……. this truly is the longest I have spent with any one single garden project EVER! Even composting renders a usable scrumptious product in a few months time. Of course I say this as I am about to go check on my blackberries! I have been cultivating these from a gift of berry shoots I was giving 3 years ago. I couldn’t decide on a spot until this spring so I’ve been clipping the shoots and letting the root stalks mature. I’ll get a post up for you all in a few weeks after I have indulged in the fig harvest that’s about to happen!
I will post pictures of my grape harvest and wish me luck next spring!