Mae West’s famous line in the 1933 film “I’m No Angel” was inspired by West’s pet monkey, Boogie. The monkey loved grapes, and one day West noticed that although he would eat grapes by the dozens, he would always peel the skin off each one before popping it into his mouth.
What inspired me to utter it was our work today on completing the grape trellis! I have been looking forward to adding grapes to my home fruit production, but needed to work out the details before I jumped headlong into the project.
The location was selected because this particular area of the lawn gets sun most of the day, but is primarily used as a walk way, essentially underutilized space. Once we selected the location, I needed to select the structure on which the grapes would grow. I did a lot of research online on types of structure, from fancy arbors to low tech metal star posts and fell somewhere in the middle with 4X4 posts and galvanized wire with tension hardware. I added copper caps just for looks as the wood ages and the copper oxidizes; it will be a lovely structure in the garden as well as being productive.
Will and I installed the 4X4X8 posts last weekend. We dug two holes to the depth of 2 feet leaving 6 feet above ground. We placed the posts and added quick set cement and water to secure the posts and back filled the holes with soil. We then gave the posts a week to set and cure before drilling and attaching hardware.
This week we located where we wanted the wire. We measured 18 inches from the top of the post for the first cable and then measured 2 feet from that location to place the lower cable. We drilled through the wood and installed eyelet bolts through the wood secured with nuts. Next we strung the cable, created loops on one end using a locking cable vice, then manually created tension while looping through a carbuncle then tightening the carbuncle to make the cable absolutely tight…we added additional tension by tightening the eyelet bolts with a socket wrench.
Now that we had our full structure, it was time to create the bed for the grapes (and eventual companion plants). We turned over and removed the turf, leaving the original soil and the hundreds of earthworms in the bed. Next we augmented with some organic garden soil, compost and manure.
Finally, we were ready to plant the grape vines. I selected two varieties that are known to grow well in this zone to provide excellent table and juice grapes. The Seedless Reliance grape produces pink-fruited seedless grape that tops for flavor and texture. The vine produces medium sized clusters that mature in midsummer. An excellent eating grape that is good for jellies and juices. This variety if hardy and grows vigorously and stores well. The other variety I selected was a Mars Grape. Mars is a blue seedless grape, good in hot summer areas; it is the most disease resistant seedless variety although it can be susceptible to black rot. It usually ripens in late July into early August. The flavor is similar to Concord and excellent. I dug the holes for the grapes, planted and gave a good drink of water. I placed bamboo reeds next to the planted vines to train them up to the trellis.
Since we are still in the last week of March, I am using some beautiful blue tinted glass bell cloches to protect against hard frosts. These will be vented or removed during the day if the weather is to be fair but can be left in place or slightly vented at night when the temperatures drop.
It will take about three years before the vines produce a reasonable crop but we may get lucking and snatch a grape or two next season. For this year I will be thrilled to see vigorous growth and establishment of these vines. I will be very excited when I can pull beautiful clusters of grapes to have on my table or to make jams and jellies with in a few years