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.
We have plenty of wild concord grapes on ourproperty. However, the insurance company doesn't approve of our harvesting methods so it'sprobably best to plant some cultivated grapes. When I cleared the land for the greenhouse,it left plenty of area to plant various fruit producing plants which don't need the greenhouseto thrive. Plus why waste the space just growing grassé Taking a look at my 3rd grade drawing skills,I'm going to set three 4x4x10' treated posts 34 feet into the ground and space them 24'apart. This will allow for 8 plants in the space. Then I'll string 12 gauge galvanizedwire starting with the first wire 4246quot; from
the ground, then space the other two 12quot; apart.The plants can be spaced 6' apart and over time the vines can be trained along the 3wires. I had planned to set the posts first in theevent that I hit any large rocks while digging, however I blew a seal on the backhoe and hadto find some parts for it. So I took my chances and put the plants in first. The row shouldgo in a straight line and a 100' tape measure works well for marking out the locations ofeach post and plant. Jamming a piece of survey's tape at each mark does the trick. We're goingoldschool and using a pickaxe and shovel and digging a hole about 1 foot deep. Luckilythere weren't any large rocks in the way just
a few roots and small stones that the pickaxewas able to pluck out. Later, looking at the post holes, you'll see why I didn't dig themby hand. Planting the vines is fairly easy. I got theseseedless concord grapes from Gurney's for half price. I just remove the fiber that'sused for keeping the roots damp, spread out the roots a bit, and set it in the hole sothat all the roots that emerge from the vine will be just below the finished level of thesoil. All the dirt that came out of the hole was hardpan so I filled it with nice organicsoil, then compacted it down, and gave it a really good watering. It also importantto cover the area with mulch to help maintain
the moisture in the soil until the roots canget established. These will get watered every day for a couple of weeks. The actual work of planting the vines is quick.It's the preparation of digging out the rocks that takes all the time. A 30 cent Oring and a day to dismantle andreassemble the valve assembly and the backhoe is running again. I can now install the postsfor the wire arbor. It may not be the fastest backhoe, but it beats digging through therock with a pick and shovel. The holes are dug to about 4 feet which will provide a deepenough anchor to prevent the posts from leaning
from the future weight of the vines. Someof the rocks that I pulled out where bigger than the hole. If I had to dig these by hand,I probably would have only dug down a couple of feet, and then would have to anchor theposts with concrete and guywires. It seems like a really big hole for a post,but without an auger with rock drilling bit, it's probably the easiest way to set a post.A little cleanup at the bottom of the hole and it's ready. I'm using 4x4 treated lumberrated for direct burial. I'm not a fan of using treated lumber, but in order for itto last a long time, it's a necessary evil. I like to add two temporary cleats to thepost to help support it while I'm set it plumb
and backfill the hole. I also like to dropa few rocks around the base to hold it in place when I start to fill it in. I'll fillthe hole several inches at a time and compact it between each layer, then clean up the areawith some more woodchip mulch. The first wire starts roughly 4246 inchesfrom the ground and the second and 3 wires are spaced 12 inches apart. It will be theperfect snacking height for the deer. At each marking I'll drill a 38quot; hole through thepost and then put in a 516quot; eyebolt. The back side has a large fender washer and nut.Having a large washer will help to keep the nut from pulling into the post under the weightof the vines. It's fairly important to make
Grape Arbor Trellis Update Spring 2016
This is what the grape arbor looks like inearly spring before it's ever had any trimming done. This is what it looks like about halfwaythrough the pruning process, getting it ready for spring, and here we are with it fullypruned and ready for spring to fully set in and the leaves to start to come out. So how have things really been going withour grape trellisé Well, you can see it here behind me. It hasn't really been a very bigproducer. That said, I haven't really put much effort into it. I haven't tried to fertilizethe plants in any way. I haven't put compost or manures or even any kind of blood mealor anything like that on them. I've just let
them be, so I don't know if this is the yearthat they really blossom out and we really get a lot of grapes or if it's just not thebest setup. One thing I will say is that throughout the course of the year, you do have to goup there, maybe every two to three weeks, and make sure that the vines aren't growingonto the house. We only do the major pruning back to this once a year, but throughout theyear, every couple weeks, you've got to go up there and make sure they don't grow intothe house. So, if that's not something that you're willing to do or you don't have thecapability of doing it, then maybe this isn't the best setup for you to try. I think thisis probably limited to somebody who really
needs the shade. In our instance, you cansee that the land slopes away from our house very quickly. If we were to try to put somekind of a tree over here, first off it is also going to not just block the light, butalso be a storm hazard for our home, to have a tree so close to this side of the house.The storms would be coming from off camera this direction and would blow trees directlyonto the house, so trees aren't a good option for us. Having the trellis right up againstthe house still gets us the shade we need on this western front and not have our bedroomheat up. I think that's the other thing to consider. What part of your home are you tryingto shade. If this is a room that you're not
going to go into in the afternoon, then maybeit's not worth trying to provide the shade and the extra work involved with keeping thevines trimmed back throughout the year, so take those kinds of things into account tosee if this is an application that's really suited for you. Otherwise, the structure itselfis holding up really, really well. I was up there trimming back these vines and shakingit around and using it for support and it is flexible, because that's the way it's designedto be but I don't see any problems with it. I think if this thing were even in full fruitthat it wouldn't go anywhere, so I'm very happy with the stability of the structureof this kind of trellis.
Lastly, we are growing both table grapes andmuscadines on this trellis and one thing I'll note is that even though we're here in theSouthern United States and muscadines are our native grape, the muscadine vines aremuch more fragile. They're much more likely to break. They're more brittle. The tablegrapes are very flexible and so what I'm trying to say is if I have a vine that starts growingat a diagonal that I wanted to grow at a horizontal, I can come back in the off season and cutthe tendrils off and move that vine down and put it where I want it whereas with the muscadinesI'm finding that as soon as I try to move them I'm more likely to snap them. They justget brittle and go way to dormant to try to
mess with them. I have to train them duringthe year while they're growing, whereas with the table grapes, I can train them right nowand don't have a problem with it at all. So, that's another thing that you could take underconsideration. So, we'll show you this again later as theyear goes on, but wanted you to get an update on the grape trellis. As far as the groundaround the grape trellis, we've got some plans for that too. Come back and see us again andwe'll let you know what's going on with that. Thank you all so much for watching. We'llsee you next time.