Rusty’s eyes, sometimes larger than his allotted space, must adjust to finding an appropriate home for his adoptees. Fortunately for the grapes, he knew there was plenty of vining potential under the arbor Joe built last summer for his school project.
Grapes are easy to grow when offered proper room and board. They prefer soils that are well-drained with plenty of compost. Full sun is a must and extra heat is appreciated by placing them near a stone wall or building on the south-facing side.
There are plenty of good grape choices for western Pennsylvania. Rusty is trying Bluebell, Chontay, Reliance and Somerset cultivars, plus a few cuttings from his Dad’s hardy concords.
Bluebell is a dark seeded grape ripening three weeks earlier than Concord. It boasts immunity to most or all fungal diseases.
Chontay is a Midwest variety that is good for fresh eating. It is very reliable and hard producing loose clusters of large purple fruit.
Rusty enjoys the convenience of seedless grapes and found the hardiest one listed, Somerset. It is described by Fedco as “a crispy texture and great flavor.”
Reliance, another seedless variety, finds a spot in the garden because of its promise of “tender melting sweet pinkish-red fruit with a strawberry like flavor.”
For best grape production, try the Four-Arm Kniffen system. To begin, these vines are planted as a single stem, six inches long, with two or three buds. Next year the vines will be pruned to a single stem, six feet long and trained on wire from three to five feet off the ground while allowing six buds on each wire. On the third year, select eight canes, four for each wire, while removing the rest. Tie two canes to each wire, one in each direction. Cut these four canes back to ten buds and the remaining to two buds each. Finally on the fourth year of production, be sure to remove last year’s fruiting canes and select eight new ones and repeat the procedure from the prior year.
This pruning technique is a bit complicated but well worth the effort. We invite you to Quiet Creek to witness grape pruning in action and enjoy some tasty treats from the vines.