Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spring Project No. 1 - The Grape Arbor

I'm sitting here grinning, and it's such a simple thing that's making me do it. The outdoor thermometer reads 54° F. This makes me happy, not only because 54° is particularly warm, but because it means the weather is starting to actually act spring-like, even if it officially doesn't arrive for a few weeks yet.

This begins an up and down cycle of temperatures which, along with increasing hours of daylight, helps to signal the gardens that it's time to wake up from their long winter's nap. It makes me more energetic, too. My calendar is beginning to actually have things on it. Today I had lunch with a friend, and tomorrow Mom and I are going to attend the Ft. Wayne Home & Garden Show.

Warmer temperatures also bring to mind those projects that need to be done and first on the list here at Our Little Acre will be to finish the grape arbor. I mentioned last year that I wanted to grow some grapes, and while harvesting them will be wonderful, I really wanted to grow them for the beauty of their vines.

The first thing we did was consult our grape bible - The Grape Grower: A Guide to Organic Viticulture by Lon Rombaugh. This is undoubtedly the most complete and informative book that's out there on the subject of grapes.

In April, we planted eight vines of table grapes: 2 Himrod (white seedless), 4 Reliance (red seedless), and 2 Mars (blue seedless). They were planted in short rows from east to west, to allow for air circulation, since our prevailing winds come from the west. They were small and took awhile before they started to take off, but all except one Reliance did well.

Planted April 8, 2008

I moved the opposing Reliance vine and replanted it next to a section of the split-rail fencing on one border of our property. Then I replanted the other Reliance vines so they were equidistant from the others, which was probably a better situation anyway, since I'd placed them a bit too close initially.

I wanted there to be a distinct area for the grapes, so we used landscaping timbers to delineate the area and I killed the grass inside by placing layers of newspaper over it. Next, I put a layer of mulch over the newspaper and that was that.

While we weren't quite sure how we wanted to do the trellis system, we began by just letting the vines grow and staking them to a short post. They grew this way until fall, when we knew they were large enough that we needed to get the more permanent system installed. Otherwise, winter winds would whip them around, so with more sturdy support and staking, they'd be ready to go once spring arrived.

October 9, 2008

We adapted information found in The Grape Grower to our needs and Romie began by digging holes for the 4x4s that we used for end posts.
Next, holes were dug for the 2x2 wood posts which would go next to the grape vines. Here is where we would have been much better off to have placed the posts first, but Romie was very careful not to cut any of the roots he encountered.

Eye bolts were put at the proper heights on all the posts.
We strung heavy-gauge wire from the end posts, threading it through the eye bolts on the smaller posts in between.

The grape vines were semi-pruned of their lowest auxiliary shoots, leaving one large stem for the trunk. One of them has two strong stems, so we left them both until we figure out what to do with that one. The vines were then well-secured to the supports with Velcro
® plant tape.

November 10, 2008

Now spring is coming and we need to finish what we started. Plans are to get four more 4x4s, which will go in between the middle vines and the end vines. Then a pergola-type covering will be constructed over the entire structure. It won't be tall enough to walk under, but will provide aesthetic interest and further support for the vines as well as keeping the end posts from collapsing inward.

I also need to read up on how to prune the vines. I don't expect to get any grapes yet this year, but I do expect that the vines will grow quite a bit.


Gardeness said...

I look forward to seeing your progress. I'd like to add a grape vine to our hopefully-soon-to-be completed arbor. Not sure how well the plants fair in western Wash. though. Thanks for listing the book, too.

Kylee Baumle said...

Gardeness ~ I would think grapes would grow very well there, in fact, I know someone who lives in Wenatchee that grows grapes. Of course, their climate could be a lot different than yours if you're not close to there. I think she told me Wenatchee is in the exact center of the state of Washington.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

As you know I have a grape arbor since 2007 and it is great. Mine is high enough to walk and sit under but there are only 2 grapes growing there. Very envious about the amount of grapes you have going. To my surprise I got grapes the first year so perhaps you will do too?

Unknown said...

Okay, okay, rub it in. 54 degrees F? Sob! Maybe it'll work its way THIS way and melt some of the freaking snowpiles at home (I'm still away and there's not so much snow here on the south shore). Meanwhile, the grape vine project looks wonderful. I have one plant that is doing very well, though I don't harvest the grapes, just leave them for the birds. Maybe this year we'll add a Concorde-like type.

CanadianGardenJoy said...

Kylee .. would you mind if I link with you about grape arbors .. we have a large one and if I have time and I can dig up the pictures I think it would be fun to have different points of view on them ?
That is if I don't have a scatter brain day here ? LOL

Kristin said...

I have wild concord grapes here in RI that are delicious. I made juice & jelly from them last year. I was hoping to build an arbor this year to "help them along" into my property. I can look at yours & gardenjoy4me's for some inspiration! Keep up the good work! Kristin

garden girl said...

Good morning Kylee, I've always thought it would fun to try growing grapes. We really don't have enough sun for them here, unfortately.

Last year I rescued an ornamental grape from a client's container that had been destined for a yard-waste bag. I don't think the fruit is great on them but hopefully the birds will enjoy it if we don't, (that is if it will even set fruit in it's somewhat shady spot!)

Shady Gardener said...

Kylee, You always provide inspiration! And it's fun to see what you folks are up to!! My grandfather had a grape arbor that we kids used to walk through. It felt like a secret garden!

Even if I cannot participate in this venture, I want you to know that I finally responded to inspiration gained from you!! I'm inviting you to read my newest post.

Have a great day!! I'm loving these warmer temps, too!! :-)

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

That is going to look great. I've tried to grow grapes, but we just didn't have the room for them. It'll be nice to have your own little vineyard :)

F Cameron said...


What a wonderful thing! Grapes, vines and arbors -- delightful!


Cindy Garber Iverson said...

I have to tell you that ever since you wrote about acquiring this book way back when, it was on my wishlist at Amazon. I finally bought it a few weeks ago! It's now in my living room as reading material for when I'm resting in the evenings. You are SO right! It is THE reference one needs for growing grapes. I'm glad you posted photos of your current structure. They look so much like the ones recommended in the book. I've been thinking I might do those. I haven't purchased my vines yet (usually vines go in NOW around here) and I may need to wait until next year. But I will be happily reading any updates you post on yours to get tips.


Anonymous said...

You'll be well antioxidented. That arbor is very classy. I can see the beginnings of a vineyard and winery.

TC said...

I want dibs on the first bottle of homemade wine! Well, maybe the second bottle. And if not wine, then the second jar of homemade grape jelly!

Brenda Pruitt said...

Perhaps a vineyard some day??? Haven't tried to grow grapes, but love their leaves.

Unknown said...

I'd adore growing some grape vines too. I sure hope to get things figured out. My wish list is extremely long, I think I'll have to cut back some still....

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Your project sounds great Kylee. I used to have a grape arbor. I grew Concords so I could make that rich yummy jelly.

Anonymous said...

Best wishes on your grapes this year. They can be great long term additions to your garden. The grape that I remember best here was Golden Muscat. It did really nicely until the shade trees overwhelmed it.

Chiot's Run said...

Thanks for the photos I'm hoping to put in a grape arbor as well this spring. I'm hoping to make my own raisins.

Rose said...

I've never grown grapes before, but this is an excellent reference for anyone who wants to try. I can't wait to see your finished project. I have so many projects I want to start this spring that I hope it warms up soon:)

Kylee, I have put a witch hazel on the top of my plant "wish list" just this morning:) Like you, I've seen so many beautiful photos of them on other blogs that I'm envious of. I'll cross my fingers that those are buds on your shrub; I hope you'll show us if they bloom.

Shady Gardener said...

Oh, dear! I thought I'd posted here! Well, I completely understand the big grins... what a great project and how nice to have such a helpful husband!! :-) The grapevines really grew last year, didn't they?

My grandfather had a grape arbor that we used to play under when we were little... good memories!

by the way, Kylee, I've tried a little milk jug seed starting! Yea!

Kylee Baumle said...

Yolanda Elizabet ~ Wouldn't that be nice? I'll be happy if the vines look good, but if we get grapes this year, all the better!

jodi ~ It's 15°F here right now. Does that make you feet better? Those warm days just don't last this time of year. But soon!

Joy ~ Absolutely you can link to me! I've already checked yours out and wow, wow, wow! Sooo very beautiful. I hope our look half that good someday.

Kristin ~ I made jelly two summers ago for the first time from some wild Concord grapes that grew behind our house along the creek. Last summer, they weren't there. The vines were, but no grapes. :-( Maybe this year, there will be. Homemade grape jelly tastes nothing like what you buy in the store!

garden girl ~ I'll bet your vines are pretty though, aren't they?

Catherine ~ I'm not sure it will be large enough to qualify as a vineyard, but I'm hoping it looks great all the same!

Cameron ~ I'm hoping so!

Cindy ~ Isn't that book just loaded with great information? I would think that you can plant the vines this year yet. I don't see why you couldn't.

flowergardengirl ~ I don't know about the winery, but grape jelly and just for eating will be wonderful!

Kylee Baumle said...

TC ~ Number 2 jar of jelly - it's yours. Remind me!

Brenda ~ Doubt the vineyard. This will be work enough, with everything else around here. I love their leaves, too, and the vines. Love the vines!

Cinj ~ Isn't it funny how ideas just keep popping into our heads?

Lisa ~ It was wild Concords that I used to make that jelly two summers ago. Nothing like homemade grape jelly, is there?

MacGardens ~ Golden Muscat - I've heard of that, but I don't think they're common here. Concords grow wild here in abundance (so I'm told) and we have them growing along the creek that runs behind our house. No grapes on them last summer though. :-(

Chiot's Run ~ Raisins! That's brilliant! I'll have to try that, too. I hope you don't mind that I've added your blog as a link under Ohio Blogs. :-)

Rose ~ You bet I'll post pictures! We saw one in full, glorious bloom at the home and garden show yesterday. I took pics of that, so as soon as I finish resizing the pics and writing the text for the post, you'll see it, too. :-)

Kylee Baumle said...

Shady Gardener ~ You DID leave a comment here before! I had to go into Comments Moderation to find it. Blogger didn't notify me of the first one for some reason.

That would have been so fun to have a grape arbor to play under! My neighbor had a mulberry tree that we played under and it was like a house. We loved it, but our parents didn't, because we always ended up with purple-stained clothes!

I saw your milk jugs! Bravo! With more warm temperatures coming our way, you should see sprouts before you know it! Good job! (And I'm glad I could help!)

Anonymous said...

Not to be a Negative Nelly, but on Friday here in MD it was 65 degrees - and tonight we're supposed to get a foot of snow. I'll believe in spring when I see it!!

Kylee Baumle said...

Jennah ~ But read the first sentence of the second paragraph! That's what spring is supposed to do! It's a good sign!

(But I hear you...)

Wayne Stratz said...

good luck with this project. I need to build a structure for an attempt at hardy kiwi. we may get a foot of snow in the next 24 hours so that will wait till spring really gets here.

Kylee Baumle said...

A FOOT OF SNOW??? Oh dear. I hope not, but I guess it is just the first of March. March is always so hard and seems to last forever.

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