Grapes have been cultivated for thousands of years, for fresh eating and making raisins, juice and wine. The vines can also be used to transform a trellis into a cool shady hide-away. You should decide what you want to do with your grapes-table grapes, jam, jelly, juice, wine, vinegar, arbor shade only, or your donation to the local bird population. This is very important because there are differences in the propagation and treatment of various grape varieties and you'll want to start right from the beginning. An idea of what you want to accomplish makes it easier to end up on the right path (and, if you do want to grow grapes for birds, they prefer the small red varieties).  

If you are starting from scratch and preparing a new site, you'll want to test your soil. While grapes are not terrible picky about their soil conditions, grapevines and lawns are very comfortable with the same pH levels (6.8-7.0), you need to provide a good balance of trace minerals. This is important, application of potassium to soils already containing high levels may contribute to other mineral problems such as magnesium deficiency. Excess  phosphorous can result in zinc and iron deficiency which results in poor crop yield. When digging your site, go easy on the fertilizer-a thin layer of compost is plenty. If you give grapes too much nitrogen, they go all vine and set very little fruit. When calculating how and where to raise grapes, keep in mind that at least 150 days of frost-free weather are needed. 

Vines start producing grapes about three years after planting; a useable crop after five years. They reach their prime in terms of crop yield between ages ten and thirty. Vines can grow for a hundred years, though production is reduced as they get older. So a lot of thought needs to go into the variety selection. Choose the most disease resistant cultivars that will thrive in your area. Disease problems in grapes can be one of the biggest headaches for backyard gardeners. Although most grapes are self-fertile, you'll get the best results by planting two different varieties. Give grapes full sun. Grapes tolerate a wide range of soils, but good water drainage is essential. Choose a site that offers protection from strong winds and unexpected late frosts. I have heard the north slope/south slope controversy, so I don't think I will get involved in that one. My only suggestion is to become familiar with your site and its different micro-climates. In spring , as soon as the soil will accept a spade, plant one or two year old plants that you get from a reliable nursery or garden supply.

Set the vines in the soil so that the soil line matches the original planting depth at the nursery. Then cut back all the vines and branches to a single stem with at least three remaining buds. If plants are planted in rows, allow seven to eight feet between vines. Grapevines will twist and twine around everything within reach unless snipped and trained to grow where you want them. The main stem of the grapevine is valled the trunk. The trunk sends off laterals, which is allowed to grow, develop into arms, spurs, and canes. It is the cane that bears the fruit. If you want shade for a patio, or screening for privacy, limit pruning to the removal of scraggily growth and old canes. For quantities of luscious clusters, serious pruning is in order. You'll need to build a trellis to support the vines. One simple, and inexpensive way is simply to set two stout poles firmly in the ground and stretch two wires between them, one at 30-36 inches above the ground and the other 24-30 inches above that. After the first season, and during mid-winter or very early spring when the plant is dormant, tie the central cane to the top wire. If it doesn't quite reach, use a dowel or piece of bamboo to bridge the gap. Cut the cane off slightly above the wire, and snip off all the other growth. Be sure to leave 2-3 buds nearest each wire. After the second or third season, new growth will be vigorous enough to select four of the best canes, these become your 'arms'. Cut off everything else, but leave four stubs or spurs with two buds each ( these will become next year's renewal canes). Trim your 'arms' to about 10 buds each and tie each one to an upper and lower wire. Every winter the previously bearing canes are removed to make room for the renewal growth. After doing the cuts the vines may leak some water for several days to a week but eventually this will stop and it doesn't do the plant any arm.

Go easy on the watering, grapes seem to do best when ignored. They will need some watering until they get established. But then only supplement the water if it doesn't rain. Prevent fungus by giving your grapes good air circulation, there are organic fungicides if this is a problem. Cleaning up the debris at the end of the season will help a lot, especially any dried up un-harvested berries. If birds and wasps are a problem you can try putting the fruit clusters in paper bags while still hanging on the vine. Keep the weeds under control, by weeding or mulching. In fact a university study showed that a heavy mulch increased the yields considerably. Harvesting grapes at the proper time is something you will learn by experience. Grapes develop sugar as they ripen, and don't become sweeter once picked. This is why harvest timing is very important. Before harvesting, several factors go into determining ripeness and maturity for fresh grapes. Measurement of grape sugar content, assessment of bunch and berry size and uniformity, and berry color all must be considered prior to harvesting.  

If you want to propagate your grape plants, you can take cuttings and sprout them in water. Make sure the cuttings are at least a foot long and submerge at least half the cane. Be careful, some varieties are patented and you can get into trouble.

Don't forget that the young tender grape leaves are edible as well as the tendrils. Preserve your harvest by canning or dehydrating. Vinegar and wine production are a whole newsletter by themselves. Grape seed also makes a wonderful cooking oil which may be beyond our ability to produce, but they can be ground up and added to flour as a cancer preventative For a tasty hot summer treat, try freezing the grapes whole. 



1. Put boards around your gardens and then scrape the slugs off the bottom of each one every morning.

2. Use diatomaceous earth, cinders, eggshells, ground nut shells, used coffee grounds, or sawdust around your plants. The sharp edges puncture their softunderbellies so they dehydrate and die.

3. Dig holes in the garden for containers. Fill them with beer with the edges flush with the ground. The slugs will smell the fermenting yeast and supposedly fall in and drown. The only pest that liked these were my raccoons! They had some great parties out back last summer till I caught on to where the beer was going.

4. Strips of copper tacked to the edges of raised wooden beds- there is a strange electrical reaction between the copper and the slug bodies and they die. 


A good way to attract beneficial bees, wasp and flies to your garden is to grow some of the small flowering plants they prefer. Members of the mint, carrot and daisy families seem to be especially attractive to beneficials. Also give them some water, a tray or shallow dish with pebbles make a good bug bath, just keep it filled with enough water to keep the stones moist and provide dry places for the bugs to drink from. (Ladybugs especially like this)




although found growing in damp places, it will adapt to most garden soils, thriving and self seeding in sun or semi-shade in rock gardens and near the sea. Sow in autumn or spring where the plants are to grow and barely cover the seeds. Also called bitterherbs, centaury genetian and feverwort.


Grows easily in any soil; needs no particular attention. Self-seeds freely, so it may need containment. Also called lesser knapweed or black knapweed.

Lawn Chamomile 

sow seeds in spring outdoors or under cover, but do not cover the seeds with soil as they need light for germination. Established plants may be divided in spring. Plant in fertile,well drained light soil. 18 inches apart for specimen plants or 6 inches apart for lawns. Be sure to water well in dry weather Also called Roman chamomile, double chamomile, common chamomile, and perennial chamomile.



"In an orchard there should be enough to eat, enough to lay up, enough to be stolen, and enough to rot on the ground."



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