Grapes of Wrath

About a month ago I made a post about a future pergola that would be built to support two grape vines in my backyard.  I’d qualify this venture as a bit lofty and perhaps, dare I say, not very well thought out.  Since then it has evolved into something more practical.  After doing more research on  grape growing, I decided on a much less expensive and time consuming support (very vineyard-esque) for the grapes.  However, this project has still required quite a bit of time and effort!

The finished product. Note the two horizontal wires and the anchor wires on either side. The little bare-root grape is there, although hard to see in this photo! Pretty amazing that soon it will be a massive vine.

It seems that there is quite an art to growing grapes, primarily lying in the pruning.  I’m not growing wine grapes, but I still want to adhere to the pruning and growing rules of creating a successful grapevine.  I’ve only got space where I dug out a huge, unproductive shrub for 1 vine.  I could have squeezed in two but I want to do it right.  I purchased two 2×2 redwood posts from the local home improvement store and had them cut to 7′.  My husband put the posts down one and a half feet into the ground, so they stand about 5 1/2′ tall and 5 feet apart (use a level!).  Since they will only be supporting one vine, we thought that anchoring the posts was not necessary.  However, after installing the posts and wire, the posts were already leaning inward.  My handy father took some additional wire with the help of some eyelet screws on each post and into an anchor in the ground.

A note on vine orientation to the sun: ideally the vines run north and south.  This way the morning sun hits one side and the afternoon sun hits the other.  Grapes need FULL sun in order to achieve and ripen fruit.  We aligned our posts in this way.  Although it’s somewhat near our property line fence, the height of the vine will still receive full sun.  Grapes should be somewhat protected from strong winds.  The fence will help with that purpose, but there should still be enough air circulation to prevent mildew, a common disease among grapes.  Whew, there’s a lot to consider just for some little grapes!

Soil: DEEP!!  I dug and dug until I couldn’t dig anymore.  Grape roots like to go to China, so make sure you’ve got at least 2-3 feet of loose, well-drained soil.  Do not amend much, if at all.  Grapes can do well (and even sometimes are preferred) in rocky soils, ie: the hills of Tuscany.  Since my native soil has the nutritional value of a rock, I did add a bit of soil amendment, but not much.  Mix well.  I read that grapes do not like stratified soil.

While at our home improvement store, I did manage to find 14 gauge galvanized wire (9-14 gauge is recommended).  I will be extending this wire at 2 heights between the posts as the primary supports for my red flame seedless table grape vine.  One height will be at 5′ and the other at 3′.  To secure the wire to the posts, I’ve ordered something called a wire vise from Orchard Valley Supply.  The wire is threaded through pre-drilled holes in the posts and then inserted into the wire vises.  Once the wire goes though, it cannot come back out, thus securing the wire very well.  The wire vises get screwed into the posts and the job is done.

The wire vises (top) were inserted into pre-drilled holes, the wire strung through and then screwed into the posts.