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grapes for wine - zero irrigation?  RSS feed

 
master steward
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Location: Left Coast Canada
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I'm thinking of growing grapes. 

The problem is it is very well drained and we get zero rain in a normal summer.  But we terraced it and have been working on improving the moisture holding capacity of the soil.  It also is an excellent spot for capturing the dew.  People grow wine in the Mediterranean which has similar conditions to ours, so I thought maybe we could try that.

I also have a grape plant that does really well in our condition with zero irrigation.  We've taken a cutting from this plant and tried them in various spots.  Once it's established, it's impossible to kill with neglect.  I think it must have something special about its roots.

An idea.  What if I established some cuttings in the space I want to grow wine this winter/spring.  While they are getting established I will buy one or two kinds of wine grape vines and grow them somewhere cosseted.  Then next (spring/winter/fall - whenever you graft grapes) graft the wine grapes onto the established roots?

I want to do that thing where the grapes grow along a wire.

Is this plan possible? 
 
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I have hunch that if you planted wine grapes suitable to your area (pretty similar to mine too) they'd do just fine and be drought tolerant once established. I'm in a very similar situation to yours, with no rain during the summer. I also have an established grape plant that makes it with no watering. I know that people do graft grapes, but the concept is very foreign to me, when I've always grown them from cuttings and that's all I've ever seen anyone else do
 
raven ranson
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Grafting is pretty easy with fruit trees.  Never tried it with grapes, but google says it's possible.

My worries are that most grapes I buy in the shops die within three years.  They just need more water.  Whereas the cuttings I've taken from this one are really hardy.  I think what I need is the root structure from this one, and the fruit from a grape vine.
 
James Landreth
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You could give it a try. I understand what you mean. I think that if you were to water them regularly for the first five years, they would be solid by then and be alright. Maybe you could also try planting them into a hugelbed. Also, if you take a large cutting and bury several of the nodes it'll start out with a more extensive root system. Let me know if you do try to graft it, though! I know it's possible but it just seems so strange, given the form of grape stems.
 
raven ranson
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Sorry, I didn't make this clear.  We won't be watering the plants at all.  It's going in our zero irrigation experiment. 

But that said, we have had a lot of success in that field.  I think if we can establish the cuttings in the rainy season, and let them have one-year growth before grafting, it should have well-established roots that can manage.  At least that's the theory.  I don't know if that will work.

But last year we grew squash, hot peppers and tomatoes in that same location with zero irrigation and a much drier year than normal - which isn't saying much because normal is zero rain from May first through Oct 15th.  I don't know how the news/weather people thought we could be dryer than zero, but meh.  They know more than me about things.
 
raven ranson
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James Landreth wrote:Also, if you take a large cutting and bury several of the nodes it'll start out with a more extensive root system.

 

This sounds like a good idea.  Stronger roots, better growth.

Looking in the local nursery today it seems that all the grapes they sell are grafted.  I didn't know that.  I wonder if that's normal.
 
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I purchased a concord grape at a big box store about five years ago.  I watered it in the first year (by hand).  I literally forgot about it.   It struggled for three years.  Starting last year it became more vibrant.  I'm not sure if It helped but I planted a comfrey plant right on it, and chop and drop regularly.  I really should have done a better job of trellising.

After the first year I didn't do anything for three years.  Last year I started to keep grass clear at the base.     This is the fifth year and it is loaded with fruit.  The only water it gets is natural rainwater that falls from the sky.  Outside the fence is grass and wildflowers, that have gone feral, and the inside is heavily chipped.

Wine grapes usually have rootstock.  Phylloxera wiped out almost all of France's wine grapes so a lot of the vineyards there are using u.s. rootstock. 

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r ranson wrote:I'm thinking of growing grapes. 

The problem is it is very well drained and we get zero rain in a normal summer.  But we terraced it and have been working on improving the moisture holding capacity of the soil.  It also is an excellent spot for capturing the dew.  People grow wine in the Mediterranean which has similar conditions to ours, so I thought maybe we could try that.

I also have a grape plant that does really well in our condition with zero irrigation.  We've taken a cutting from this plant and tried them in various spots.  Once it's established, it's impossible to kill with neglect.  I think it must have something special about its roots.

An idea.  What if I established some cuttings in the space I want to grow wine this winter/spring.  While they are getting established I will buy one or two kinds of wine grape vines and grow them somewhere cosseted.  Then next (spring/winter/fall - whenever you graft grapes) graft the wine grapes onto the established roots?

I want to do that thing where the grapes grow along a wire.

Is this plan possible? 



Yes, it is possible. I grafted several vines with very good results (90% success) in my vineyard last year. I grafted "green on green". Beginning of June. Nothing difficult. Here is very nice video from Russia - 

good luck!
Write if you have some more questions.
 
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I did a dry garden experiment this year, and my Concords are along one side of the area. I know they were watered deeply when they were young, but since then they've pretty much been left on their own. They're about forty years old now. This year the neighbor wasn't watering so they got nothing. The grapes are turning, no problems. I'm waiting to see if the grapes are better or worse. The other grapes (Interlaken, along the stairs) got a bit of water from overflow from the sprinklers but otherwise they were dry as well. Still gave me a full harvest. They were watered deeply once a week for the first three years, then left to their own devices for the last two.

I think the main thing is to force them to search for water when they're young, so they dig their roots deep instead of staying on the surface.
 
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