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They can be successfully grown in locations where peaches and sweet cherries will survive the winter and where tomatoes or sweet corn will mature. Well drained sandy loam soils are best for grapes. Clay soils delay maturity of crops and vines, while sandy soils advance maturity.   Remember that grape plants are vines and  require support usually on a post and wire trellis. Grape vines must be pruned different from fruit trees.   Most home gardeners do not prune their grapes hard enough. Pruned grape vines will "bleed".  This causes concerns to home gardeners but it is a good sign and the "bleeding" will stop.

VARIETIES

Grapes are grown for fresh eating, juice, jelly or wine. Seedless grapes are preferred for fresh eating or for raisins.

FRESH EATING TABLE GRAPES

INTERLAKEN  Green seedless.  Slightly hardier than Himrod.  Medium sized fairly tight clusters.  Berries are crisp, sweet and fleshy.  Good for eating fresh, excellent for raisins.  Early.
HIMROD  Large long loose cluster, green and seedless.  Berries are sweet and juicy, excellent for raisins.  Both IOnterlaken and Himrod have been grown successfully for years in the North Okanagan.  Early.
SUFFOLK RED  Pink to red berries, seedless in long loose clusters.  Good flavour, early.  Slightly less hardy, good to zone 5.
GLENORA  Bluish-black colour.  Seedless, loose but heavy clusters.  High quality.  Same hardiness as Suffolk Red.
CANADICE  Red colour or darker.  Seedless and hardy.  High quality.  Good for fresh eating, juice, jelly or wine.  Early
SOVEREIGN CORONATION  Usually just called "Coronation".  Developed at the Summerland Research Station.  A blue grape with an occasional seed.  Ripens mid-season.  Becoming very popular as a table and juice grape.  Sold here in baskets in late summer and fall.
SKOOKUM SEEDLESS  New from the Summerland Research Station.  Early, green, seedless hybrid with large Berries.  Hardy.
RELIANCE  An American hybrid grape.  Pinkish-red and seedless.  Outstanding sweet flavour.  Perhaps the finest quality of any seedless grape.  Ripens early.  The hardiest grape available to home gardeners (hardy to -34 F).

WINE GRAPES

CHARDONNAY  European white grape.  One of the hardiest wine grapes, can be grown in cool areas.  Excellent for dry white wines.
GEWURZTRAMINER  Mid season, pinkish red grape.  Spicy German style wine, often a pale yellow colour.  Vines are less hardy than Chardonnay.
PINOT GRIS  Ripens mid season.  White grape.  Honey colored, richy flavored wine.  Does best in areas with a long, cool growing season.  Vinifera.

 

PINOT NOIR  Mid season, grows satisfactorily in cool areas.  Small, dark blue European grape.  Dry, pinkish red wine, moderately hardy.
MERLOT  Late European black fruit.  Large yields.  High quality, rich red wines.
GAMAY NOIR  Late maturing but hardy.  Clusters medium large and berries medium large.  Used in France to make Beaujolais.  Makes an excellent lighter red wine.

FOR JUICE AND JELLY (can be used for wine)

CONCORD American.  The standard of quality for juice and jelly grapes.  Bluish black berries overspread with bloom.  Vigorour, hardy, strong growing, productive vine.  Bud hardy to zone 4. 
CAMPBELL'S EARLY  American.  Large cluster, purplish to black.  High quality.  Excellent for juices, early, well adapted to many climates.  Seeded.
BUFFALO  American hybrid, concord type, but earlier.  Bluish-black colour, with good aroma.  Good for table use, jam, jelly or wine.  Vigorous, heavy bearer, early and hardy.

There are many more grape varieties, but the above are usually the most readily available.

PLANTING

Plant well rooted one or two year old plants in the spring.  Dig a hole deep and wide enough to accommodate the root system.  Place a handful of bonemean (phosphorus) in the bottom of the hole to help the root system get established quickly.  Place the plant in the hole.  The bottom roots should be at least 1 foot (30cm) below ground level.  Mix in some peatmoss or compost with the planting soil.  Replace the soil in the hole.  Treat firmly to ensure that the vine is securely anchored in the ground.  Give the vine a good watering.  Grape plants should be spaced no closer than 5 feet (1.5m) within rows and 7 lfeet (2.1m) between rows.  The soild immediately around the grape vine should be kept free of weeds or lawn grass during the early stages of growth.

TRAINING AND PRUNING

Grapes are normally trained with one vertical trunk and four horizontal canes (4 arm kniffen system)  on a system of posts and wires.  The wooden posts should be no closer than 10 feet (3m) and are often further apart than this.  The posts hold 2 wires with the first wire spaced 3 feet (0.9m) above the ground, and teh second wire spaced 3 ft. (0.9m) above the first wire.

In the first year, allow one or two shoots to grow and tie these to the trellis.  In the second year, choose one shoot to be the main trunk and prune the other one off.  When the first shoot reaches the top wire tie it up and prune the terminal to encourage development of side shoots.  As these develop retain 4 and prune out all the rest that develop.  Tie these four shoots on to the wires, two on either side on the bottom wire and two on either side on the top wire.

Once the framework is established, prune the four side canes to total of 50 buds.  leave a few buds spurs on the trunk near the wires to produce next years crop.  After the first two years your grape vines will need to be pruned annually in March or early April.  Remember that fruit is produced on current seasons growth, so without lots of new shoots you will not get a crop.  Grape vines must be pruned hard every year.  Remember that the largest grape bunches that ripen first and test the sweetest are produced close to the main trunk.  Grape bunches at the end of long canes are smaller and later to mature.

SOIL AND FERTILIZER

Soils in the Southern Interior are chronically low in organic matter and nitrogen.  Minor elements such as magnesium, boron, and zinc may be low as well.  If good weed control is practiced, no fertilizer should be required for the first two to three years.  When the vine starts to crop in the spring use 1.1 lb. (0.5kg) of a complete fertilizer such as 12-16-12 (which also contains minor elements).  Grape vines do not need as much nitrogen as fruit trees.  Nitrogen stimulates late season growth which will not harden off before winter.  Organiz growers should use approved organic sources of nutrients.

HARVESTING

For fresh eating and wine making, harvest the grapes when both colour and flavour reach their peak.  Grapes for jelly are harvested just before peak maturity.

WINTER PROTECTION

Some of the more tender varieties may require winter protection.  Vines can be untied and laid flat on the ground and covered with soil or straw.  Faililng this, banking dirt or straw up around the trunk will provide some protection.

WEED CONTROL

Grapes are very sensitive to fumes from 2,4-D and can be seriously damaged, so herbicides containing 2,4-D should not be used near grape plants.

PEST CONTROL

Grape leafhoppers appear as small white flies that feed on the leaves and are annoying at harvest.  Powdery mildew is a fungus disease that attacks leaves and fruit.  A dull gray-white mat of fungal growth develops on leaves and fruit.  Infected berries may crack open and dry up.  Birds feed on grapes as they begin to ripen and can destroy crops.  Netting is the only sure way to protect your grapes from bird damage.  Check the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food publicaion "Pest Control for the Home and Garden" for further information.  Organic gardeners should use accepted organic control methods.

Thanks to John Price, P.Ag., Horticulturist