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Step by step with grapes, from bare-root plant to arbor or fence.

Step by step with grapes, from bare-root plant to arbor or fence

The first step in growing good grapes is to choose a variety that suits your climate.

Each variety needs a certain amount of heat to ripen. In cool coastal climates, this means that the only reliable choices are early-ripening kinds such as "Cardinal', "Flame Seedless', or "Perlette'.

In hot, long-summer climates, plan for a succession of ripe grapes by choosing early, midseason, and late-ripening kinds. For example, you can start the harvest in July with "Cardinal' or "Flame Seedless'; continue it with "Thompson Seedless', "Italia', or "Ribier'; and then follow with "Black Monukka' or "Ruby Seedless'. For other suggestions, consult the Sunset Western Garden Book or your county extension agent.

In cold climates, you need hardier grapes. "Concord' and similar round, slip-skin American grapes are the better-known choices. For an intriguing taste that mingles the foxy flavor of the slip-skins with the tight skins and firm flesh typical of California grapes, try the hardy seedless hybrids: "Himrod', "Interlaken Seedless', and "Suffolk Red'.

The second key to success is a warm, sunny site with well-drained soil. Spread vines in the sun over a sturdy support.

Getting started is easy

You just buy a bare-root plant from the nursery in January or February, bury it almost to the top, and then watch it grow for a year.

Good nurseries offer thicker-stemmed plants than some discount stores. Choose one 1/2 inch thick or more (see the picture on page 90); the few dollars you save for smaller ones may mean waiting longer for your first crop.

Once growth is underway, you can mold the vigorous vines into almost any shape you choose. Here we show how to train them onto an arbor or as a fence. See pages 91 and 92 for the mature results.

Pruning is a bigger challenge. You start the second winter

You can prune anytime after leaves begin to drop in late fall until buds begin to swell in spring. To get the cleanup over with all at once and to avoid debris in their pool, the Petruccis (page 90) prune soon after hard frosts turn leaves yellow or brown but before they fall--usually early December.

In cold-winter climates, wait to prune until buds just begin to swell. This often delays growth enough to avoid damage from late frosts.

For vines over 1/2 inch in diameter, use lopping shears; to remove old wood much larger than an inch, use a saw.

Don't try to cover a big area too quickly. To ensure strong new growth, each winter prune canes that form the permanent framework back to sturdy growth about 1/2 inch thick. Use stretchy ties and check them often to prevent binding.

Each winter, start by cutting off all dead, weak, and thin canes flush to the trunk or permanent wood. Next, as an intermediate step, some gardeners find that it's helpful to cut back all thick, sturdy growth to 12 buds.

Find out whether the grape variety you have should be cane-pruned or spur-pruned (see page 90 for an explanation). At first, save a few more canes and spurs than you think you'll need. When you can see the framework clearly, cut off excess growth to space the best canes and spurs as directed in the diagrams.

If you thin excess growth frequently throughout spring and summer, winter pruning will take minimal time. Your grapes will be easier to pick and will ripen earlier--an advantage that's especially important in cool-summer and short-season climates.

Photo: Whether you want an arbor or a fence, the first three steps are the same

1 In winter, plant bare-root cutting with top two buds just above ground or mulch. In cold climates, mound loose soil over buds. To avoid root injury later, drive in a sturdy stake now

2 The first year, let all shoots grow to develop as large a plant and root system as possible

3 That winter, choose the sturdiest cane for a future trunk. Cut it back to a point about 1/2 inch thick, above a bud, then tie. Cut off the rest

For a fence, do this the second year . . . and this the third and following years:

4 In spring, tie the strongest vertical shoot. Save next best as a standby; pinch off the rest. When main shoot is a foot longer, tie again and cut off the standby

5 When trunk grows a foot above wire, cut it back to the wire. Then train growth horizontally from top two buds. Rub off shoots on trunk and underside

6 In winter, cut canes back to permanent wood. Vines are too immature yet

for fruit. Cut back horizontal arms to a point about 1/2 inch thick

7 Regularly rub all growth off trunk and underside of arms. On top of arms, thin to single shoots about a foot apart. When horizontal canes reach the length you want, cut through tip buds

8 In winter, prune for fruit production. Cut spur-pruned vines to two-bud spurs about 8 to 12 inches apart; remove rest. Cut cane-pruned vines as shown on page 92

9 That summer, each spur will produce two fruiting canes. The following winter, shorten one to two buds; cut the other off

For an arbor, do this the second year . . . and this the third and following years:

4 In spring, tie the strongest vertical shoot. Save next best as a standby; pinch off the rest. When main shoot is a foot longer, tie again and cut off the standby

5 When the vine reaches the arbor roof, bend and tie it as it grows across top. Pinch back vigorous side shoots to about 10 inches

6 In winter, cut main stem back to a point about 1/2 inch thick. Cut off side shoots. If necessary to cover arbor, repeat steps 4 to 6 next year

7 Regularly rub all growth off trunk and underside of arms. On sides and top of woody arms, thin to single shoots about a foot apart. When horizontal canes reach the length you want, cut through tip buds

8 In winter, prune for fruit production. For spur-pruned vines, cut to two-bud spurs spaced 8 to 12 inches apart, then follow step 9 above

9 For cane-pruned vines, cut 8- to 12-bud canes, spaced about a foot apart. Near each cane, keep one or two spurs, two buds long
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Feb 1, 1986
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