The Complete Grape Growing System

The Complete Grape Growing System

Get Instant Access

In the earliest periods of human history, four foods were recognizably important. In the North there were apples and honey. In the South there were olives and grapes.

Two types of grapes are commonly grown today: the American and the European. The American grape entered our history more recently than the vine of Europe, but it. has already played an important role since its roots saved the European grape from extinction during the Phylloxera vilifoliae plague of the last century. This plague threatened to destroy the European grapes and the only remedy was grafting these grapes to American rootstocks. More recently American grapes have entered into sturdy hybrids that carry European wine grapes far north of their original climate area.

Grapes send their roots deep where they can, and they prefer a soil that is rich in organic material. You can encourage growth by adding an organic supplement at planting time and mulching the roots afterward. The site should have good air circulation because grapes are subject to disease in stagnant air.

Grapes need to be fed only nitrogen and may not always need that. If the leaves yellow and there is little growth in the early part of the season, they definitely need feeding. If you're not sure, try a feeding to see the result. Late feeding during the ripening period can force excessive growth and spoil the fruit.

Homegrown seedless grapes will never grow as large as those you buy at the market because commercial growers apply sprays of gib-berellic acid (a plant growth hormone) to increase the fruit size. The spray simply increases the cell size within each grape and does not increase flavor or sugar content. Therefore, homegrown grapes will be more flavorful and will last on the vine longer because they will not rot the way large, crowded fruit tends to.

Harvest grapes by taste and appearance. When you think the bunch looks ripe, taste a grape near the tip. If it's good, cut the bunch.

Sometimes grapes never taste sweet, no matter how long you wait. This simply means that you have planted the wrong variety for your area. Either switch to another variety or replant the one you stubbornly insist on in a hot spot against a south wall or in a west-facing corner.

if vines overproduce and have too many bunches, the grapes will never get sweet. This can be remedied in future, years by more extreme pruning in the dormant season or by thinning the grape bunches to balance the leaf area with the grape berry load.

The two kinds of grapes are pruned differently. (See page 52 for instructions.)

Grapes mildew badly and need good air circulation and often treatment with a fungicide. The classic remedy is copper sulfate. A number of pests attack grapes, especially certain beetles. Birds love grapes, but you can save the fruit by placing whole bunches in paper bags.

Grapes for the Northeast and Midwest

Many of the following grapes also grow well in the Pacific Northwest. This is mentioned in the descriptions. The American grapes are listed first, with a note when they are choice juice or wine grapes. French hybrids are listed second.

American Varieties

  • Buffalo' This grape ripens in midseason. It has fairly large clusters of reddish black berries and is a good grape for wine or juice. Cane prune this vigorous vine. Performs well in the Pacific Northwest. Origin: New York. 'Catawba' Good for wine or juice, this red grape is a popular commercial variety. It requires a long season to ripen and will do well in southerly areas with the longest growing seasons. Thinning will hasten development. Widely available. Origin: North Carolina.
  • Cayuga White' This variety bears white grapes in tight clusters. They are of good dessert quality. Origin: New York. 'Concord' This late grape is so well known and widely planted that it hardly needs description. Often the standard of quality in judging American grapes, the dark blue slipskin berries are rich in the characteristic "foxy" flavor, which is retained after processing. Widely available. Origin: Massachusetts. 'Delaware' The clusters and berries of this major wine grape are small, good for wine and juice, and excellent for dessert eating. The vines are subject to mildew. Origin: New Jersey.
  • Edelweiss' This hardy, medium-sized grape is of good dessert quality. Origin: Minnesota.
Concord Grape Niabell


  • Fredonia' This variety should be allowed to set heavily, as it sometimes has difficulty with pollination. This is the top black grape in its season. The vines are hardy. Widely available. Origin: New York. 'Himrod' This is the top white seedless grape throughout the northern states. 'Thompson' types replace it where weather is warmer. The vines are brittle and only moderately hardy. Widely available. Origin: New York. 'Interlaken Seedless' This grape ripens early and has medium-sized clusters of small, seedless berries with greenish-white skin that adheres. The flesh is crisp and sweet. The grape resembles 'Thompson Seedless' but has more interesting flavor overtones. The vine is fairly hardy and does best with cane pruning. Widely available. A good substitute for 'Thompson Seedless' in the Pacific Northwest. Origin: New York. 'New York Muscat' Good for wine and juice, this variety's reddish black berries in medium clusters have a muscat aroma, which is rich and fruity, not "foxy." Temperatures below -15° F can cause winter injury. Origin: New York.
  • Niagara' Good for wine and juice and more productive than Concord, this is the most widely planted white grape. It is vigorous and moderately hardy. Widely available. Origin: New York. 'Ontario' These white berries form fairly loose clusters. The vines are vigorous, productive, and moderately hardy and prefer quite heavy soils. Cane pruning is best. Also grown in the Pacific Northwest. Origin: Ontario, Canada.
  • Schuyler' This grape resembles European grapes in flavor. It is soft and juicy with a tough skin. The vines are fairly hardy and disease resistant. Also a good choice in the Northwest. Origin: New York. 'Seneca' The small to medium berries resemble European grapes, with tender golden skin and sweet, aromatic flavor. The vine is hardy and takes cane pruning, although one parent is a European type. Good in the Pacific Northwest. Origin: New York. 'Swenson Bed' This hardy red variety has good flavor and medium to large berries. Origin: Minnesota. 'Veesport' Borne in medium clusters, these black grapes are good for wine and juice and acceptable for fresh eating. The vine is vigorous. Origin: Ontario, Canada.

French Hybrids

Spur prune these vines. They are hybrids of European and less well known American grapes (not the 'Concord' type). All are primarily for wine or juice but are also good eaten fresh.

This very early white grape is soft, with a pleasant flavor. It is a dependable producer and a vigorous grower, better in sandy than in heavy soils. Choose it if early ripening is needed. Widely available. Origin: France. 'Baco 1' ('Baco Noir') This midseason variety produces small clusters of small black grapes. It is extremely-vigorous and productive, but it tends to bud out early and is subject to frost injury. This is not a cold hardy variety. Widely available. Origin: France.

Grapes for the West

The West is grape country wherever you go, and yet many gardeners are disappointed in the fruit they harvest from their vines. The problem is usually a poor choice of varieties. More than any other fruit, grapes require the right climate and amount of heat to produce well. Too many gardeners buy vines because they like the fruit in the market or because they know a famous name.

In general western grape climates are divided into three groups. The first includes all of the West, except California and the southwestern desert. Gardeners in these cool regions should choose an American grape of the "foxy"-fla-vored species, Vitis labrusca. Some of the best choices lor the Pacific Northwest are indicated in the descriptions of American grapes. 'Concord', often sold by nurseries in the cool regions, is not successful in western Washington and Oregon. It requires more heat.


In California the cooler coastal areas and coastal valleys are suited to American grapes and selected European varieties with a low-heat requirement. 'Concord' docs well, but the popular 'Thompson Seedless' will almost always disappoint the home gardener. 'Perlette' is similar, but it was developed for the low heat of this climate. The inland Northwest and parts of Utah, Montana, Colorado, and Idaho can also use 'Concord' and 'Niagara' from the coastal California list.

In the hot inner valleys of the California coast range, there are major commercial vineyards growing all the renowned European wine grapes. The Napa-Sonoma wine region is well known, but there are also many wine grapes grown in newer plantings in southern Santa Clara County, San Benito County near Salinas, and north of Santa Barbara.



Vitis Fredonia


Berys Nuts


The hot Central Valley climate is perfect for the European table grapes that you see on your grocer's counters. 'Thompson', 'Ribier', and 'Emperor' all do well.

The low and high deserts are not good grape country. The earliest maturing European varieties stand the best chance of producing a crop.

Table Grapes

  • Cardinal' These large, dark red berries ripen early and have firm, greenish flesh. The medium-sized clusters are extremely abundant. Use this one to cover an arbor or sum-merhouse. Spur pruning is best. Performs in both coastal valley and central valley climates. Origin: California. 'Concord' This grape, described earlier, does not like high California heat or the coolest Northwest summers, but does well elsewhere. Cane prune. Origin: Massachusetts. 'Delight' This grape ripens early, yielding well-filled clusters of large, greenish yellow berries with firm flesh and a distinct muscat flavor. Spur pruning is best. Prefers coastal valley climate; locally available. Origin: California. 'Emperor' This late-ripen-ing, large red grape has flesh so firm it seems to crunch. It is adapted to the hottest part of the San Joaquin Valley. The berries are firm and will store longer than other varieties. Spur prune. Origin: Unknown. 'Flame Seedless' This light red table grape is popular for its crisp texture, sweet flavor, and absence of seeds. Elongated, loose, medium-sized clusters ripen early along with 'Cardinal'. Prefers plenty of heat during the ripening period; the best color develops where nights are cool. Use either spur or cane pruning. Origin: California. 'Muscat of Alexandria' These late midseason, large green berries are splotched with amber and grow in loose clusters. They are not pretty but have an unparalleled musky, rich flavor. They lose flavor if held too long so are best eaten fresh from the home garden. These grapes can also be dried as seeded raisins. Spur pruning is best. This variety requires the moderately high heat of the San Joaquin Valley or other inland valleys but not the desert. Muscats are often used to make sweet dessert wine. Unfortified muscat wine is a treat with desserts or fruit. Origin: North Africa. 'Niabell' Performing well both in coastal valleys and hot interior regions, this midseason variety produces well-filled clusters of large, black berries that are good fresh or as juice. Vines are vigorous, resist powdery mildew, and can be pruned to long canes. Cane pruning is best, Origin: California.
  • Niagara' This white variety, described on opposite page, ripens mid- to late mid-season. The best crop comes in coastal regions. Cane pruning is best. Origin: New York. 'Pierce' This is the hot-sum-mer 'Concord'. Grow it in the warmer regions of central California where you want a black slipskin. It is very vigorous. Cane prune. Locally available. Origin: New York.
  • Ribier' This is a beautiful, early midseason dessert grape with large, jet-black berries. It does best in hot interior valleys. The fruit tends to soften quickly in storage and lose its mild flavor. The vines are overproductive. Use short spur pruning and thin the flowers. Origin: France. 'Thompson Seedless' Ripening in early midseason, this is the top commercial seedless green grape. The clusters are well filled with rather long, mild flavored, fruit. These are excellent fresh if clusters are thinned. They are also used for raisins. Grow only in hot climates. (Try 'Perlette' or 'Delight' instead if in doubt.) Cane pruning is required. Origin: Asia Minor. 'Tokay' This late midseason variety bears large clusters of large, very firm, red grapes that are attractive but have little flavor. It does well in the Lodi area, and the cooler valley climates. Use 'Emperor' in hotter climates. Spur pruning is best. Locally available. Origin: Algeria.
Grapes Used For Zinfandel Wine


Best Dark Table Grapes Northwest

'Pinot Noir'

Catawba Grapes


Wine Grapes

The list includes three each of the best-known red and white grapes. They change character over short distances, so unless you know that they do well near you, don't count on getting the best quality. 'Cabernet Sauvignon' This is the great European black grape used to make the red Bordeaux wines of France. Cane prune for best results. Origin: France. 'Chardonnay' This popular white grape is used to make the famous French white Burgundy. It is a vigorous grower and moderate producer. The clusters of berries are small. It is best in cool coastal areas and should be cane pruned. Origin: France.

  • Chenin Blanc' The vines on this white grape variety are vigorous and productive. It yields medium-sized berries and clusters. The coastal valleys and the San Joaquin Valley have the best climates for this variety. It should be cane pruned. Origin: France.
  • Pinot Noir'
  • French Colombard' This productive white variety yields a grape that is high in acid. It is adapted to coastal valleys and the Central Valley of California and bears medium-sized berries and clusters. It can be cane or spur pruned. Origin: France. 'Pinot Noir' This small black grape is used to make the French Burgundy wines. Cane prune. Origin: France. 'Zinfandel' This is a California specialty for both red and white wines. You can probably grow this better than any other, as it seems to make drinkable wine in a variety of climates. Origin: Unknown.

Grapes for the Southeast

Two quite different types of grapes are widely grown in the Southeast. Both are American in origin: the bunch grape and the muscadine grape. The bunch grape is typified by 'Concord', which was described earlier. Although this type prefers a cool climate, varieties are available for most regions. The real southern grape is, of course, the muscadine, with its smaller clusters of berries and liking for Cotton Belt weather.

Muscadine Varieties

Many muscadines are sterile and need a pollinator. The varieties described below as "perfect" will pollinate themselves and any other variety. 'Hunt' This dull black fruit ripens evenly. The quality is excellent, very good for wine and juice. The vine is vigorous and productive. This variety is unanimously recommended for home and commercial planting by the Muscadine Grape Committee. Origin: Georgia, 'Jumbo' This is a very large black muscadine of good quality. It ripens over several weeks, so it is excellent for fresh home use. The vines are disease resistant. Origin: southern United States. 'Magoon' Perfect. Reddish purple berries are medium sized and have a sprightly, aromatic flavor. The vine is productive and vigorous. Origin: Mississippi. 'Scuppernong' Most people call any similar grape a scuppernong, but this is the real


variety. The fruit color varies from greenish to reddish bronze, depending on sun. It is late ripening, sweet, and juicy with aromatic flavor. Good for eating fresh or for wine. Origin: North Carolina. 'Southland' Perfect. This very large grape is purple and dull skinned with good flavor and high sugar content. The vine is moderately vigorous and productive. Good for the central and southern Gulf Coast states. Origin: Mississippi.

'Thomas' This standard grape has reddish black, small to medium berries that are very sweet and excellent for fresh juice. Locally available. Origin: southern United States. 'Topsail' Clusters of three to five berries have green fruit splotched with bronze. This sweetest of all muscadines is very good for fresh use. It is a poor producer. Vines are not very' hardy but are disease resistant. Origin: North Carolina. 'Yuga' These reddish bronze berries are sweet and of excellent quality but ripen late and irregularly. They are fine for home gardens. Origin: Georgia.

Table Grapes Nurseries


Was this article helpful?

0 0
Berry Boosters

Berry Boosters

Acai, Maqui And Many Other Popular Berries That Will Change Your Life And Health. Berries have been demonstrated to be some of the healthiest foods on the planet. Each month or so it seems fresh research is being brought out and new berries are being exposed and analyzed for their health giving attributes.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment