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Grapes

GRAPES


Vitis spp


Grapes were one of the earliest plants cultivated by man. Eating fresh grapes picked from your arbor is a ritual of summer. Though U-pick vineyards are a popular attraction around the south, you can grow grapes very easily at your home. You can grow them on an arbor or they can be trained along a fence.

Two types of grapes are grown in the South. The most common is the native Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia), sweet juicy bronze (also known as Scuppernongs) or black disease resistant grapes where you eat the flesh and discard the thick skin. Some varieties are excellent table grapes for fresh eating and others are good for wine.

Bunch grapes (Vitis vinifera) are the classic, thin-skinned grapes that grow in a cluster, such as the popular Concord grape, chardonnay or Pinot Noir wine grapes. In the South, the virus Pierce's Disease kills some types of traditional bunch grapes, but some newer varieties are resistant to this problem.

My grandfather, Dr. Robert Dunstan, the chestnut breeder, was also the first person to sucessfully hybridize native American muscadines and bunch grapes from France. He was able to create fertile hybrids in the tetraploid by doubling the number of chromosomes of both plants with the chemical colchicine, and then making the cross. His technique allowed the development of the wine industry in the eastern United States. His original crosses have been used in grape breeding programs from Florida to New York (see History).

One of the very best new grapes is the hybrid muscadine x bunch grape 'Southern Home', bred by the University of Florida. It combines the best characteristics of both parents, produces big clusters of sweet, thin-skinned black grapes, and has attractive, disease-resistant maple-leafed foliage.

We maintain a variety block to test all of the grapes that we grow. We sell only the vines that are the best producers with superior disease resistance. This way we can also be assured of shipping you the correct variety.

Grapes are simple to grow. Tie the canes (shoots) up a trellis or along a fence as they grow the first year. They will bear the second year. Each winter prune back the vines to 3-4 bud spurs along the main vine, which will then bear fruit the next year. Harvest is July-August for bunch grapes and August-September for muscadines.

Grapes are a viable commercial crop in the South, for U-pick, fresh fruit sales and juice. There are a number of vineyards that produce very good wine from muscadine and hybrid grapes. A well-maintained vineyard can produce 1000s of pounds of grapes per acre, with relatively low inputs once the vines are established on trellises and can be very profitable. University Extension Services such as the Small Fruit Consortium provide numerous publications with complete instructions for production and marketing and there are growers associations and cooperatives around the South.

Muscadine grape varieties come as either self fertile or female plants. The self fertile varieties do not need a pollinator and are the right choice to buy if you only want to plant one vine. The female varieties will not bear fruit without a pollinator. Use the self fertile varieties to pollinate them. One self-pollinating grape variety will pollinate up to four female grape plants.


Site Selection

Grapes do well on a wide range of soils, but rich sandy loam or clay loam soils are preferred. Grapes do not tolerate flooding and may grow poorly in mucky soils unless planted in raised mounds. Plants will grow more vigorously and produce more fruit in full sun. Grapes prefer slightly acid soil (pH 6.0-6.5), but soils of up to moderate alkalinity are tolerated. Prepare the area by removing any weeds prior to planting. This step is often over looked but is absolutely critical to any successful planting. Weeds and grass steal light, water and nutrients from your trees.

Soil preparation and Planting

The grape should be planted in the middle of the main posts of your trellis. Dig a planting hole approximately twice times the width of the pot and at the same depth as the root ball. Remove the plant from the pot, gently loosen the root ball and place in the planting hole. To avoid burying too deep, make sure plant is positioned with the top most roots at the soil line. Fill the planting hole with the native soil; gently tamp it in.

Water thoroughly settle the roots and eliminate air pockets. Do NOT put fertilizer in the planting hole. Only apply fertilizer if it is the correct time of year If desired, construct a water basin around the base of the tree approximately 36 inches in diameter

Mulch in spring and summer with approximately 4-6 inches of mulch. Pull mulch a couple of inches away from the trunk for good air circulation. Space grapes 20 ft. apart.

Ideally, every third grape in a row should be self-fertile to pollinate adjacent female plants. Females should be no more than 30 feet from a self-fertile pollinator.

Water

The first year is a critical time for the establishment of a new grape. Water thoroughly twice a week on light soils and once a week on clay soils. Soak the entire root system deeply. Grapes should receive at least 1 inch of water each week for best growth and fruit production. Water regularly, especially during dry periods. Fruit may drop prematurely if insufficiently irrigated during dry spells.

Fertilization

The type of fertilizer you choose may be chemical or organic. Make sure that the fertilizer contains iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, molybdenum, copper and boron. These minor elements are very important to plants and most soils are low in these elements. You can fertilize with 10-10-10 with minerals or Espoma Citrus Tone. (Organic) Application rates vary according to age of plant. The amount of fertilizer applied increases each year until the 5th year after planting.

Spread the fertilizer evenly avoiding a 5-inch area around the trunk. Water or rake in. For Zones 8a-10, fertilize 3 times each year in late February, late May and late July/early August. For plants further north (Zone 7), fertilize in March or after bud break (June in Zone 7). Never fertilize after August as this will promote new growth late in the year which will be subject to freeze damage.

Grapes need more magnesium than many other fruit. Magnesium deficiency shows as a progressive yellowing between the veins of older leaves and may cause premature fruit fall.

Pruning for fruit

Fruit is produced on new shoots developing from the previous year’s growth. In Year 3, canes produced the previous year should be pruned to approximately 3 in. long in January or February. These canes will produce several shoots that will fruit during the following summer. These new shoots will be cut back to 3 in. the next winter, forming the first fruiting spurs. Depending upon the growth rate of the plants, spurs will need to be thinned in Year 5 or 6 after planting. During the winter pruning, remove every other shoot, aiming for a fruiting spur every 6 in. on each arm. Choose spurs on the top of the vine, if possible. Allow a few extra shoots to grow from the arms to form replacement spurs as the vine ages. Remove tendrils twining around the arms or spurs to prevent girdling


Pollination: See individual varieties
Bears: July-Aug after 1 year
Light requirements: Full sun
Soil type: Well-drained pH 5.5-7.0

Spacing: 10'

Pruning: Train to trellis
Maintenance: Easy
Hardiness Zone: 7-10


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Products 1-10 of 11
Delicious Muscadine
Availability: Out of Stock
Price: $7.95


Item #: Delicious Muscadine - Delicious Muscadine  "Vitis rotundifolia Michx"  is a  muscadine grape cultivar being released by the University of Florida that is black- fruited, early and even ripening,...
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    Dunstan%27s Dream Muscadine
    Availability: Out of Stock
    Price: $7.95


    Item #: Dunstan's Dream Muscadine - Dunstan’s Dream is a muscadine hybrid developed by noted plant breeder Dr. Robert Dunstan. Dr. Dunstan never officially released this variety but he gave it to a handful of people. One of those...
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      Southern Jewel Muscadine
      Availability: Out of Stock
      Price: $7.95


      Item #: Southern Jewel Muscadine - Southern Jewel Muscadine "Vitis rotundifolia Michx"is a muscadine grape cultivar being released by the University of Florida that is a high-yielding, disease–resistant, large black- fruited variety....
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        Alachua Muscadine
        Availability: Pick-up Only
        Price: $7.95


        Item #: Alachua Muscadine - Alachua is a extremely productive, medium-sized black muscadine with excellent flavor. It is good for fresh fruit and juice. Sugar content 17.5-18.5% Ripens August. Self-Fertile. Does not need...
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          Carlos Muscadine
          Availability: Pick-up Only
          Price: $7.95


          Item #: Carlos Muscadine - Carlos is an excellent bronze muscadine, very sweet, good for fresh fruit, juice, jelly or wine. Very vigorous, hardy. Sugar content 15-16%. Self-Fertile. Does not need pollinator. Zones 7-9.Size...
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            Fry Muscadine
            Availability: Pick-up Only
            Price: $7.95


            Item #: Fry Muscadine - Fry is a very large, very sweet muscadine - the standard by which all other muscadines are judged.  Developed by Dr. Fry, a contemporary and close friend of Dr. Dunstan.  The saying "I'd...
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              Jumbo Muscadine
              Availability: Pick-up Only
              Price: $7.95


              Item #: Jumbo Muscadine - Jumbo is a very large black muscadine, as large as Fry, with very good flavor. One the very best black muscadines - for wine, juice or fresh eating.  Sugar content 15-16%.  Jumbo is a...
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                Noble Muscadine
                Availability: Pick-up Only
                Price: $7.95


                Item #: Noble Muscadine - Noble is a very productive vine. It is a smaller fruited black muscadine that grows in attractive clusters. It has a delicious Concord-like flavor, high sugar content (15-16%) and is excellent for...
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                  Southern Home Hybrid Grape
                  Availability: Out of Stock
                  Price: $7.95


                  Item #: Southern Home Hybrid Grape - Developed at the University of Florida, it bears clusters of black, elongated grapes with excellent sweet flavor and a high sugar content Southern Home is a hybrid bunch x muscadine grape developed from breeding work done by my grandfather's close friend Bob Zhender and Dr. John Mortenson from the University of Florida. It bears...
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                    Summit Muscadine
                    Availability: Out of Stock
                    Price: $7.95


                    Item #: Summit Muscadine - Summit turns a reddish-pink rose blush color when ripe and has extraordinary flavor. Medium to large fruit, very productive, excellent vigor, hardiness and disease resistance. Sugar content 17-18%....
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