ABOUT GRAPES: Vitis spp.

VITACEAE

Relatives: American bunch grape

Grapes have been an important part of our lives for a very long time. Egyptians were making and drinking wine over 6000 years ago and dried grapes (raisins) have been around even longer. The early Phoenicians carried grapes with them as they visited (fought with?) Romans, Greeks, and even the French of southern France. The Romans then spread grapes throughout the rest of Europe during their reigns and conquests. The fruit of the vine began its love affair with France when it was introduced by a Tuscan and the Romans later turned on England. By the early 18th century, the Spaniards had introduced the vine to the new world (California); the eastern US had its own native grape (Muscadine) growing wild and reported on by the Vikings- long before the Europeans even knew of the New World. There are between 70 and 75 recognized cultivars around the world.

DESCRIPTION

The Vitis species grow from a woody vine and fast growing and maintenance free once established. "Old Vine", the oldest grape vine in the world, is the oldest living specimen on our planet of a noble grape vine that still bears grapes! With an age of over 400 years it is registered in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest vine in the world.
Leaves: Deciduous, can be large and are often lobed. The usual fall leaf color is yellowish brown. Leaves can be eaten: In Greek: ντολμαδάκια με κιμά, pronounced dohl-mah-THAHK-yah meh kee-MAH. These small bundles of meat and rice wrapped in grape leaves are a favorite dish in Greece. The name comes from the Turkish word "dolma" meaning "stuffed." They are time- and labor-intensive to make, so the recipe is for a pretty large quantity. They can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, or frozen for a bit longer.
Flowers: Grape flowers are very small and appear in the spring as drooping panicles only on the current season's growth; pollination is by bisexual flowers and is therefore self fertile.
Fruit: Ranging in color from black to blue to white to cream to pink and everything in between, grapes are classified as true berries (a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary). Seeded varieties have two to four tan colored seeds, and seedless varieties, well, you know. HINT: Remove the top layer of grape leaves during the late summer to allow more sun to reach the fruits; this will greatly increase the sugar content and thus the sweetness of the berries.
Grape pruning will follow in one of two ways:
1) Cane Type Varieties which develop fruiting wood away from the base of the cane, meaning you should leave long canes to be trained on wires or trellises. Most Cane pruned varieties are excellent for arbors.
2) Spur Type Varieties which develop fruiting wood close to the base of canes should be pruned back to within several buds to leave small spurs for development of new wood. This method is used for most wine and table grapes.

CULTIVATION

Grapes have gotten a bad rap that they are labor intensive in order to have a good harvest. Other than an annual late winter pruning to leave fruiting spurs, they get along quite well once established. After all, take a wall in the woods and see how many wild grapes that are apparently doing OK without a lot of fuss.
Location: Simply put, they grow best in full sun; some protection from stagnant air is a plus for any site you choose. Best if grown on a trellis system which keeps the fruit within easy reach as well as clean. Ask about our free How To Do Grapes when you purchase your grape vine from Rabbit Ridge Nursery.
Temperature: Grapes can be affected by late frosts that can damage tender buds, but once a vine is established, it is pretty hardy. Generally speaking, grapes like hot weather throughout their rather long growing season.
Chilling: Chilling refers to the number of hours, 45 degrees F and under, during the dormancy period. All fruit and nut trees need a specific amount of chilling hours before they will produce fruit. The amount varies with each variety and the hours need not be continuous. For example as listed: (500 hours).
Soil/water/nutrients: Grapes grow best in deep, well drained, light soils, although they are remarkably tolerant of even sandy and clay soils. A minimal pH of 5.5 is almost too low. Vines are only moderately nutrient hungry, and many people we know do not feed their vines once they are established, although moderate applications of nutrients in the spring will increase growth and yields. Any balanced fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 would probably be fine. A good soaking right before bud swell apparently is greatly appreciated by most gape vines.
Pruning: Vines need to be pruned to allow light and air to penetrate to the berries, but failure to prune at all will eventually result in major declines to fruit production. Be sure your pruning is done before you see any leaves. You should also know that pruning will cause your grape vines to 'bleed' (lose sap) but this is generally not a problem and ceases when the leaves fill out.
Pests and diseases: The home gardener is unlikely to experience any of the following problems with grapes bought from us, but we wanted you to be aware of possible problems: powdery and downy mildews, and occasional appearances of Black Spot. Here at Rabbit Ridge Nursery, we have also noticed an increase of Japanese Beetles over the past three or four years in eating the tender leaves. Birds are also fond of grapes, as are neighbors, small children, and old people. Plant enough vines for everyone.

CULTIVARS

There are European grapes, American grapes, table grapes, wine grapes, Muscadine (Scuppernong) grapes, and probably some grape types we have never heard of. We have heard of the grapes we offer at Rabbit Ridge Nursery, however, and they are all at least two years old and will grow and perform quite nicely in this area.

(NOTE): SF means Self Fertile; FEMALE means it needs a SF variety to cross pollinate with. Male Grape are called "Perfect Flowered", which means there is both a male and female on each plant so it is also referred to as Self Fertile. If you pick a FEMALE, just be sure you also plant a SF (MALE) along with it to insure an abundance of grapes.
(Click on Grape Variety to link to that Grape)

FERTILILZING GRAPE VINES

For New Vines: Apply ¼ lb of 10-10-10 in an 18-inch circle around each vine after planting (late April to early May). Repeat every 6 weeks until early July, then stop. The second year, apply in early March, May and July at double the first year's rate (½ lb per vine). Do not put the fertilizer closer than 21 inches from the trunk. To minimize the potential for winter cold injury, Piedmont and foothills growers should omit July fertilizer applications.
For Mature Vines- 3 years and up: Scatter 1 to 2 lbs of 10-10-10 uniformly under the vine (60 to 120 sq ft) in early to mid-March and apply another 1 lb in mid-June. If the average length of new vine growth exceeds 3 to 4 ft during the season, reduce the amount of fertilizer the following year by 33%. Continue adjusting fertilizer rate until the desired vigor (based on vine length) is obtained. Avoid mulching materials that will release nitrogen late in the season which can cause increased susceptibility to winter damage. Too much fertilizer too late in the season is only going to get you more vine, not more fruit.

ABOUT GRAPE ROOTSTOCK

All Rabbit Ridge Nursery Grape are grown on their own Rootstock.

SF means Self Fertile; does not need another pollinizer
Female means just that: Female; requires a SF to pollinate