3810 Whites Creek Pike, Nashville, TN 37207 (615) 876-1014

Archive date:  April 12, 2009

These Grapes have no Wrath

There’s no downside to having a vineyard in your landscape

It doesn’t matter whether you are planting a vineyard or just an arbor, growing grapes in middle Tennessee just makes sense. We are fortunate to live in the heart of the transition zone, smack dab in the geographic center of the northern and southern eastern United States. Because of this, there have been several notable vineyards come to fruition across the mid-state. You don’t have to have interest in growing grapes on an industrial scale to reap the rewards.

I remember as a kid, my grandmother’s garden was always a special place. But you had to be careful going through the gate while she was in there working. (As I have previously mentioned, she would put you to work.) Three sides of her garden fence were the more decorative, board fence using three - 1” x 6” stringer boards mounted along 4” x 4” posts. They were always painted white. On fourth side, the fence material was woven wire attached to cedar posts that had 6” square openings. I guess that’s why I so vividly recollect the ripening of the concord grapes that she grew along the entire north side of her garden. The fence along that side was probably 50 or 60 feet, but it seemed much longer.

It was always great picking the grapes from outside the fence, ripening grapes were a real sign of summer, but Nannie would “get after us” about eating too many. She was intent on making grape jelly, and of course, her jelly was the best.

I was fortunate as a kid, I always awakened early and my grandmother lived next door. That meant five o’clock a.m. breakfast with Nannie. She had the best “Cat-head” biscuits I ever tasted. But no biscuit was complete without homemade grape jelly. It’s no wonder I always wore “husky” jeans as a kid, as I would go home and eat breakfast again, two hours later.

Successful grape production does require some work. If you are into maintenance-free gardening, you might think about other plants. If you don’t mind the extra “tending to” you can have delicious fruit as well as an attractive plant.

Select the type of grape you want to plant (wine, table or slipskin), then look for a variety that suits your preference. I have included some information below as to which varieties of grapes we will be offering. Some varieties prefer more or less heat and finding a variety that does well in your location is the key to successful viticulture. Plant grapes in a site located in full sun, which is mandatory for good fruit production. The developing fruit requires ample heat. Vines planted in partial shade are more susceptible to fungus and other disease. Amend your soil so that it is loose, fast draining and loamy. Again, EarthMix® Premium Topsoil Blend or EarthMix® Premium Soil Conditioner are great products for these purposes. Grapes are very deep rooted, so the deeper you amend the soil, the better. Organic compost added to a depth of 24-36 inches is ideal. For an in-depth listing of Grape care and production, check out this information provided by the Agricultural Extension Service of the University of Tennessee: http://www.utextension.utk.edu/publications/pbfiles/PB1475.pdf

It is a good idea to provide a trellis or other type of support for the vines. Some varieties grow extremely fast and will need ample support. Trellising also keeps the fruit above the surface of the soil where it is susceptible to rot. Grapes can be trained to grow along a south-facing fence or as espalier along the side of a building. Arbors and traditional grape stakes also work well to keep the fruit off the ground. Also, prune grape vines when they are dormant. Fruit is produced on one year old wood, on stems that have formed the previous season. One year wood has smooth bark; older wood has a shaggy appearance. Retain a basic framework and remove long runners to keep plants compact and under control and remove long runners during the season as needed to keep the plants within the desired boundaries.

And don’t forget about Muscadines. Muscadine grapes, are often referred to as scuppernongs. Muscadine is native to the Southeastern United States and has been cultured for more than 400 years. Native Americans preserved muscadines as dried fruit long before the Europeans inhabited this continent. Listed below are also the muscadine varieties we have at Bates Nursery & Garden Center.

If you’re looking for table grapes, may I suggest our Himrod, Delaware, Catawba, Mars, or Lakemont. If wine grapes are more to your liking make sure to check out our Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Savignon. Muscadine enthusiasts are sure to enjoy our Cowart, Fry and Scarlet cultivars.

As you have already discovered, I do a fair amount of promotion for our EarthMix® line of products. I want to do something to get it in your hands and try for yourself. If you’re already an EarthMix® user you know it is a truly unique product that provides plants the opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive! Through next Friday, April 17, 2009, we will give a FREE bag of EarthMix® Premium Topsoil Blend to each customer with any purchase (a $5.99 value). If you are already an EarthMix® Premium Topsoil Blend user this is our way of saying “thanks”, if you are new to this unique product, we know that once you try it, you will use it in all of your outdoor planting applications. Here is the “Catch”: one bag per purchasing customer only…and, you have to ask, but that is it. Purchase anything, a pack of seeds, a tomato plant, whatever you need, ask for it and the EarthMix® is yours!

Coming in next week: huge shipment of annuals, vegetables, tropicals and much more…remember our average last frost date is April 15. Check us out on Fox 17’s website for a cold weather story from earlier this week: Bates Nursery Freeze Preparation

Warmer weather is coming,

David Bates