Growing Table Grapes

    • Fuchsias will bloom all summer if you remove faded flowers and seed pods and fertilize every ten days with a liquid fertilizer like Miracle Gro.
    • Roses need water and fertilizer to keep blooming well throughout the summer. Watch for pests and treat immediately to prevent infestations.
    • Check for squash, or “stink”, bugs on squash and pumpkins. Hand-pick grey-brown adults and destroy red egg clusters on the leaves. Use pyrethrins to control heavy infestations.
    • Prune rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas to shape them now. If you wait much longer, you will be cutting off next year’s flowers.
    • Birdbaths will attract our feathered friends to your backyard so you can enjoy them close-up. Place them a few feet from a bushy shrub to give the birds protection.

Growing Table Grapes

Grapes have been cultivated since ancient times. Many European grape varieties, brought to California in the 19th century, have provided the basis for today’s thriving grape industry. Home gardeners can still grow some very old European varieties, such as Muscat of Alexandria, but there are some outstanding new varieties to grow as well. Grapes are some of the most versatile and adaptable of all the small fruits.

Grapes make an excellent backyard crop. The vines do not take up much space when trained against a fence or arbor, and there are varieties that do very well in our climate. Even an inexperienced gardener should be able to produce a good crop.

American and European grapes and their hybrids are grown throughout California. Each type has its climatic preferences.

American grapes are distinguished by their skin which slips easily off the soft flesh. They usually have seeds and a strong, distinctive flavor reminiscent of Concord, the best known American grape. They can be eaten fresh and make excellent juice and jelly. Other fine American grapes are Interlaken, Himrod and Golden Muscat, which are all very sweet.

European grapes are firm with nonslip skin and relatively mild flavor. They do better in warmer areas of the state because they need long, hot summers to mature. Thompson Seedless does very well in the Central Valley, but seldom ripens here. But there are some European varieties, like Perlette and Flame, that will do well here.

Most wine grapes are European grapes, so many of them will not ripen here. But you can try Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot or Zinfandel particularly if you have a warm, sunny, southwest-facing slope. Sunlight is the key to producing grapes high in sugars which, after fermentation, become alcohol. These varieties are successfully grown in Redwood Valley, Potter Valley and Ukiah.

Homegrown grapes are not likely to be as large as those found in grocery stores. Commercial growers treat their table grape crops with gibberellic acid, a growth hormone that causes the cells to grow larger and longer than normal.

Grapes will tolerate a wide range of soils. They have deep root systems and therefore need deep but infrequent watering. However, they should not be allowed to dry out. Watering prior to harvest will increase fruit size. Keep weeds pulled or hoed, especially when vines are young.

Grape vines can be grown on fences, trellises or arbors. A standard 8’ x 8’ arbor will support one vine nicely. Grapes can be grown unpruned, forming a thick mass of canes and dense shade. Or they can be carefully pruned to a cordon that runs across the middle of the arbor. Arbors are a nice way to incorporate a grapevine into your landscape design, and they lift the vines up to receive maximum sunlight and air.

Grapes are one of the easiest fruits to grow in our climate and make “good-eating” in the summertime.

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