The Q&A Archives: grapes

Question: I live in North Dakota. What would be the best type of grapes to plant and how early do I plant them?

Answer: According to the North Dakota State University Extension Service, grapes should be planted in a sheltered, warm, sunny location on well-drained soil. The hardy variety Beta is generally available. The fruit is bluish black, small, sour and good for jelly or juice. Beta does not need to be covered during the winter and can be successfully grown throughout the state. Another extremely hardy variety is Valiant, introduced by South Dakota State University. Valiant is higher in quality than Beta and is now available from many area nurseries. Fredonia, a more tender variety and better quality grape may be grown but the vines should be pruned, then removed from the trellis, laid on the ground and covered with 6-12 inches of soil each fall for winter protection.

Plants sold by nurserymen are one- or two-year-old plants. Spring planting is recommended. Prune back at planting time to only 2 or 3 buds. Space plants 8 feet apart in the row with 8 to 10 feet between rows.

Place the grape arbor in a well-protected site. A trellis with the posts set 8 to 12 feet apart and with 2 or 3 wires is most commonly used. Have the lowest wire 18 to 24 inches above the ground and the other wires about 15 inches apart. In the first season, the vines should grow enough to reach the lower wire. The second season, put the vine just above the lower wire and tie with soft twine.

Pruning grapes is very important. Grapes left unpruned yield poorly with small sized berries and become a tangle of vines. Beginners seldom prune grape vines severely enough. Grapes are produced on the current season's growth, which in turn comes from wood of the previous season's growth.

Best wishes with your new grape vines!

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