Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trials and triumphs of growing grapes in a cold climate

Valiant grape cluster. Don't they look yummy!

I started testing this variety in our cold climate because I was assured they'd be fine. My husband made a trellis system for me and I planted them at the end of our horse field then surrounded them with some chicken wire. I was concerned the horses might try nibbling on the grape vines but I could have saved myself the trouble. They weren't all that interested.

Tom doesn't like grapes
The grapes didn't do very well. Between pests, and what I later learned was a cold 'well' right where I'd planted them, they were pretty pitiful. So I took some cuttings and started more in the greenhouse. These did very nicely and produced a respectable number of sweet clusters. They really do taste a lot like a Concord grape.

Well, to make a long story short, our house burned down, we rebuilt but just couldn't live there with the bad memories, so moved. The place we moved to had a limited growing area and I didn't bother with any grapes the first year. The next year I couldn't stand it any longer and planted a vine outside (didn't have a greenhouse this time). I protected it a bit and thinned the plant to only 3 clusters as per most grape grower instructions. They were nice and sweet when I sampled them but when I came out a few days later to reap my bounty all the clusters were gone.

Foxes Eating Grapes
We live in a fairly rural area so likely a fox or coyote helped themselves. They were nice and neat about it. The vine wasn't damaged in any way so I guess they just sucked off the grapes. Stinkers.

Before last winter I thought I'd try a light pruning and gave the plant a heavy cover for winter protection. We'll get warm days for a couple of days and then it plunges down as much as 20 degrees the following day - all with no snow cover. I mounded the vine with grass clippings and wood chips as high as I could and then, after attaching the vine pretty solidly to its trellis, I wrapped the unmulched part of the vine in four layers of floating row cover cloth.

And...We're Off!
Sadly I'm a lousy photographer so these aren't mine but they look exactly like this.

Man, did that ever work. I've got over 40 clusters growing on a single, small vine, mostly between 2 and 3 feet off the ground. Now I don't know what to do about thinning the clusters. How far apart should I thin? Ack.

Guess I'll do a bit of reading to make sure I do it right. Knowing that I can easily grow great vines with just a bit of fuss at the end of the year, I'm going to take as many cuttings as I dare and get my vineyard started!

Of course, now the vine will be really attractive to the beastie that ate the grapes last year. I've purchased one of those motion detector sprinklers though, so we'll see how they like a squirt of water in the face when they try to steal them.

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