Monday, January 20, 2014

A Grape Plan

Sorry, no grape pictures could be found in my files. Did I delete them or can I just not find them? I hate that. A place for everything and everything in its place was my grandfather's saying and I hope mine in the new home with far more room.

It is my burning desire to create order. I handle stress so.... much better if I have a core base of organization. Presently there is NONE. Things are everywhere because there just isn't enough room in any one place. One of the things I want to take with me to our new home is my grape plants. And in that move I want to put them in the best order so they can flourish. I'm not sure how well they will transplant but I'm going to try. They are concord. The production has been so, so. I've gotten grape jelly and some juice for drinking but you could hardly call my crops a huge success. Not like at my in laws where we picked a five gallon bucket last year to take home and that wasn't even all the grapes that were ripe at the time. They have three varieties though most of the plants are concord. They have graciously offered starts to all their varieties for our new home. One of the big hurtles to success being growing varieties that do well in your area and since they do live not too far off that problem is solved.

The in laws can't remember what kinds of grapes they have but I liked the flavors and one grape variety had a taste that sent my mind spinning into possibilities. I think a blend of the varieties would make a much better flavored juice than the straight concord grape that I'm use to. I can't remember though if one of the varieties was seedless. I hope so, for one kind I think it would make a great raisin. Not the flavors of Thompson, which is the common raisin we see in the store, but still interesting. Raisins can be made from most any grape variety or so I'm told. Since I use lots of raisins in baking and would use more if I had my own, it should be incorporated into our self-sufficiency plan. Have you noticed that whole wheat bread sometimes has raisin juice in it? I'm thinking that sounds pretty smart and might be a good idea to incorporate into home baking as well.

Unless I'm way off, I believe raisins are simply dried grapes and how simple is that?Raisins can be seedless or not. I prefer no seeds. None the less grape seeds are very nutritious so there presence is a matter of tastes. I like my peanut butter smooth, not crunchy so maybe that is why I don't like crunchy raisins. Texture is a big part of food likes., just ask a small child or a master chef if you doubt this.

When studying grapes on the Internet I found there are three main varieties: slip skin which is those like concord whose skin slips off easily; table or in other words the kind you eat; and wine grapes. Most all the information on the Internet was for wine grapes. The kind I'm not growing unless they make great raisins.

None the less I learned a few things applicable to all grapes like your row of grape plants  should run north to south in the southern most end of the garden to receive the most light and heat. Mine presently run east to west, oops! I can change that now and they like a slightly acidic soil. One site said  a Ph of 6.0-6.5  with another site saying 5.0 -6.0, still pretty close margins. So Ph is a biggy and another one is the soil, mineral content, and environment. Okay, that was three more biggies. The soil they dislike most is clay. We presently have clay, clay, and clay. No wonder my grapes are so not happy! Grapes don't like their feet to stay wet and we all know clay holds lots of moisture to the point of rot. Sand is their favorite. Sand is the opposite of clay. Sand is favored probably because it warms up nicely and drains well but it does have a tendency to drain away nutrients too so that has to be watched. Can't wait to dig into the soil up there at the new place and see what treasures it holds. Has to be better than what we've got. The present owners say the top soil is thin but at least they have some. You can only describe our top soil as being the soil on top, not top soil in the traditional sense of being the most nutrient rich level. Our sage brunch is stumpy little six inches plants if that gives you any idea of how bad the soil is where our town is located.

Grapes are soil hogs it sounds like. They like lots of iron, minerals, and organic matter such as manure. The fertilizer recommended is 16-16-16 if that tells you just how much of everything they want. They also require lots of loose soil so those expansive roots can move around, 30 to 40 inches wide at least. If you think about it usually a trees roots are as wide as the width of its foliage and I'd guess grapes are similar. I'll have to get chummy with the ranching neighbors and offer to haul away some manure. If they are close I can use my own tractor, a real plus for them and me. The present owners of the place said they composted but never mentioned manure and I saw no evidence of it. I'll change that. Manure is a good friend of mine.

My other concern for this new start is if the grapes would cross pollinate? Just how far apart will I have to put my different varieties to prevent crossing I couldn't exactly find the answer to  but I did learn that grape flowers can be female, male, or hermaphroditic which in a way did answer my question.  If I have hermaphroditic plants they aren't likely to cross with the neighbors.

If the plant has male and female flowers then they might need to be as much as 20 feet apart since they are wind and insect pollinated. That brought a frown but then I read that most varieties grown today are hermaphroditic, YEAH! That means perfect in that they have male and female parts in the same flower. There are five anthers or male parts arranged around the ovary. Some varieties have more or less anthers. Pollen is shed as the anther ripens and pollination occurs when pollen lands on the female parts of a flower. Each pollen grain grows a long tube towards the eggs within the ovary, and sperm cells move down this tube. Now if you didn't get your birds and bees talk from your mother then there you have it.

And there you have my preliminary plans for growing grapes.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. Yes indeed keep those vines trimmed back from running all over and exerting their energy away from the fruit. Also trim the leaves back away from the fruit so the sunlight will shine directly on them. Now I'm done.

Sorry, this needed an addition and I'm not done. Color is not a measuring rod for ripeness in grapes. You are suppose to taste them to tell if they are ripe. When picked the sugar will not increase like in peaches so what you have is what you get so don't pick until the level is sugar is at its height.

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