Growing Grapes in Texas Jim Kamas Central Texas Gardener
I love Tait Moring's sense ofgardening style. Thanks so much for opening your gates for us. Right now we're going to talk aboutgrowing grapes. One of the hottest topics here in Texas because of all the wineries. We have Jim Kamas with us. It's great to have you back on theprogram. Welcome. Thanks, Tom, I appreciate it. Welcome back to Central Texas Gardener. You've just published a great new bookGrowing Grapes in Texas.
Congratulations on that! Thanks a lot. It took a couple years to get done, but I'm I'm pretty happy with it. Well you know, like I said, it's a hottopic. A lot of people are very interested in growing grapes in their backyard. Maybe one ofthose famous table grapes, like Concord or something like that. Well Concord ispretty tough to grow here. Concord likes acid soils which we don'thave. And it's much more adapted a cooler climates. If you wanted to grow Fredonia or some of the other lebrusca types, they'll work, but
Concord is a pretty tough one to grow here. Ok, well your book is filled with tips aboutvarieties and things like that. Let's focus on that home grower. You know , I know for example I go out to hillcountry every now and again to go to Fredericksburg, places around there. And I see wineries springing up like mushrooms now. And it kinda makes me wanna grow grapeshere in town. What does a home gardner need to know to get startedé Well if you're a homeowner and you want to grow enough vines to produce a little bit of wine
my advice is plant what you like. If you're planting a commercial vineyards we're going to have a very different discussion. But if you like Merlot, plant Merlot. If you like Syrah, plant Syrah. For smallscale, you have no big economicinvestment, so plant what you like and go with that. Yeah okay, that makes sense. In terms of the space needs, the sun,
all those kinds of things, grapes arerather particular and disease prone. Yes. So let's give people an idea of whatthe basics are that they would need to have any kind of success. Sure. Commercially our rows are spaced nine to ten feet apart, but in the backyard if you are maintaining the row centers with alawnmower or something, you can place the rows as close as six feet apart.And you can also go as tight as five to six feet between vines. You can put a lot of vines in arelatively small space.
So small space is OK. When we talk about the rows, we are talking about providing structures on which the the vines can grow and supportthemselves. Yes, a lot of times in California you'll see these free standing vines that are called head pruned vines. They don't do very well here because we need to keep our vines up off the ground because it rains here duringthe summer and they are very disease prone as you mentioned.
I always find that if something is easy on the eyes, and it feels good to look at it, then there can't be such a problem with the rest either. I slowly arrived at the point where my way of thinking changed, moving in a direction that I can't yet accomplish, but which is nevertheless to make wine without electricity and to do everything solely via manual power. This is hopefully going to be the story of the future. But I will do that. So I'd like something even better than what I have now. No machinery, no spraying and zero use of chemicals, of course. I'd like to make a grape garden â€“ like a still life. There won't be lines, only patches. There will be patches of grapes, flowers, herbs, insects, animals. So that when you look at it, you'll get the impression it's a garden, not a vineyard or a plantation. But the main thing is that I want to make wine from it. I still use sulphur which I'm not going to use in future, I use a tractor which I'm not going to use, I use a motorised spraying machine which I won't useâ€¦
a pump in the cellar, which I won't use, I use steel which I won't use. I could go on but that's essentially the main goal. I don't want any fuel or exhaust fumes, but only to work by utilising manual power. And I don't want to make 10,000 or 100,000 bottles of wine. I can make 2,000 to 3,000 bottles a year, but in the most natural way. The grapes here are all bush vine cultivated, so there are no wires on them. It's really important for me. Originally the plantation was planned to be cordon cultivated. At that time I didn't know much about grapes. I had no idea and just said that if it's cordoned, then it will be fine for me as well. And after some time I realised that these terraces, which I think are beautiful in their own right, would look really ugly if I put posts and wires on them. I always find that if something is easy on the eyes, and it feels good to look at it, then there can't be such a problem with the rest either.
That's my view and that's what I've experienced as well. I'd like to leave space for everyone, including myself. So if I sit down in any of the corners of this grape garden, then besides seeing the grapes, I should also be able to enjoy sitting there. And so should anyone else who goes there and drinks the wine. I'm trying to achieve a completely different approach. I hope, and if I desire it from within, then I'll succeed.