Muscadine Projects

eskotaDecember 1, 2012

I recently built two 100' trellises, adding to the two I put up in 2010. The posts are 20' apart, with a single wire at 5 1/2'. Distance between rows is 12', so this all looks like a little vineyard. The vines are centered between the posts, so 20 in all. I've begun pruning, as the leaves have finally fallen. Mainly separating all the extra trunks and vines from the permanent ones.

The varieties here are Ison's, Sugargate, Darlene, Big Red, Pam, and Supreme. Many of these were mentioned in another person's thread-

and I would say, were somewhat unfairly characterized there.

Another project I'm doing is taming some wild muscadine vines in my woods. I pulled one down two years ago, tied it to a 28' wooden trellis, and have been pruning back to fruitwood each winter. This week I pulled down two more (they're at least 80' long each), and still have the decision of how to support and initially prune them.

Anyone else enthusiastic about this fruit? I'd be interested in your experiences.

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Here's an easier link to that other discussion from last February.

Here is a link that might be useful: Opinion on muscadine varieties

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 10:06AM
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Ison is distinctly cold susceptible. It is in marginal territory in NorthEast Alabama zone 7b. I lost all plants in a severe freeze about 8 years ago. It is otherwise an excellent grape with decent flavor, but not as sweet as some of the others.

Sugargate - I have not grown this one but have sampled it extensively from another grower. It is a decent grape, but you can grow them both larger and better flavored.

Darlene - I like the flavor, but this variety has been a bit difficult to maintain production. It tends to make a crop one year and then drop off the next. It is also very susceptible to drought.

Big Red - This is arguably the best flavored and most versatile muscadine I grow. The only problem I've had is that they are very slow to reach production, as in distinctly NOT vigorous. They make the best muscadine jelly to be found. Note that Ison shows it to be 20% sugar, but in my experience, it is closer to 25%. I need to call Greg and remind him that this is in error on their website.

Pam - Nice bronze, sometimes has a pinkish cast depending on soil. Decent overall grape.

Supreme - This is indeed a supreme grape. My only complaint has been that it will set too many fruit and then does not have foliage cover to sweeten them up properly. Also, after an overload crop, the vines can be cold susceptible. If properly managed, these are exceptional.

A couple more that you didn't ask about:

Black Beauty - For the home grower, this one may be a better choice than Supreme. It is an excellent flavored and high quality grape that does not so easily overbear.

Summit - I like this one for the overall combination of regular heavy fruiting, hardy plant, and ability to produce even in marginal soils. This is an excellent choice for home gardeners but also yields well enough for commercial growers.

I have quite a few more varieties, but won't go over them for now.

For self fertile varieties, I suggest Ison (southern climates only), Nesbitt, and Tara. In my opinion, these all have problems with sugar or production, or flavor, but they are arguably the best self fertile varieties I've grown.


    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 12:35AM
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Thanks for the comments. I just came in from sorting out my 2010-planted Darlene vine. It took half an hour just to cut all the tendrils and pull the many arms and branches into a recognizable shape. This one has been very vigorous here, but hasn't yet fruited. I'm tempted to leave a lot of extra 10' branches, see if I can make a big crop.

Do you prune yours to just the two arms, or allow more fruiting area? Do you use a number for the buds you leave on a vine, or just cut the fruitwood back to 2-8 buds?

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 10:31AM
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Eskota: Would it be possible for you to post a picture of the Darlene vine you just finished pruning?

I prune all of my vines starting in late Jan - early Feb once all the hard freezes are finished here in central Alabama (zone 8a) and have never had a problem with my Darlenes producing large numbers of berries. However, my cordons are tied to a wire 5.5 feet above the ground and 10 foot in length in either direction of the main trunk.

One golden rule to remember when pruning muscadine vines which you probably all ready know: fruit will only grow on "current year" growth. So when you prune back a lateral that grew this year, regardless of whether or not it produced any fruit, you should only leave 3-4 buds on it from which new laterals will grow next year which will bear your next year's crop.

From the way you describe your vines, it would be helpful to see what your vines look like after you have pruned them.

Also, I've included a link to a document our Extension service puts out which helped me a lot when I first started growing muscadine.

Here is a link that might be useful: ACES Paper on Growing Muscadine

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 6:24PM
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I haven't really pruned it yet, just separated multiple branches that grew out from the trunk and attached to each other with tendrils. A lot of these look like the cordons (10' long), complete with smaller "branchlets" which can be cut back to your 3-4 buds (my 2-8). The trellising is like yours. But I let the vines grow wild all summer, and am just now cleaning them up.

I probably will cut off all the extra arms, for now they are tied with strings, hanging about a foot below the ones on the wire. Your link doesn;t show the document, just where to purchase it. Ison's website has pretty simple instructions.

I'll post a picture if I can figure out how. It would be a "before" picture at this time.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 6:59PM
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I was taught muscadine pruning by an old man who was a distant relative of mine. His rule of thumb was to cut back every piece of 1 year old wood to 3 buds at most. His rule for major canes was to cut back to 2 canes per plant and limit them to at most 15 feet per cane.

The only thing I have found to modify his rules with concerns plants like supreme that tend to overbear. It is important to separate the spurs from the canes by at least 12 inches and limit the number of growing buds per spur to no more than 3. This will keep a vine in production years longer than any other method I've found.


This post was edited by fusion_power on Sun, Dec 9, 12 at 0:23

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 8:09PM
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Yeah, the basic advice is just two 10' lateral branches going in opposite directions, tied to a single 5' wire. Then (in late winter) cut the little branches off these back to 2-4 buds. And in future years cut the new growth off of those back to 2-4 buds.

It would be easy for me to run a second lower wire on that Darlene, and have two more 10' laterals (like I'd do for bunch grapes), but pruning them back to the trunk is what's recommended for muscadines. Shouldn't have let them grow in the first place.

I have a Sugargate that's even a better example of "Muscadines Gone Wild", with multiple trunks as well as lots of 10' branches. All of it tangled and tendrilled together at this point.

Do you think it will shock these very vigorous ones to prune off 80% or more of them?

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 11:12AM
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I'm taking a break from working on that Sugargate this morning. Kind of like untangling fishing line, you get there if you keep on going. It was a terrible mess, probably 100 or more branches that were intertwined and fastened to each other, from 3 fairly big trunks (and a few little ones). Now the two biggest branches are on the wire, and everything else is laying on the ground going in all directions.

Just wondering, would you suggest skipping the fertilizer on extra-vigorous vines? I usually just sprinkle a handfull of 8-8-8 around each one in the Spring.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 1:07PM
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Eskota: There are two icons about half the way down on the web link I added above which allows you to download either document for free. If you want them to send you a preprinted one that's where the cost comes in.

Other folks have tried growing the vines on a lower wire around here, but the shade from the upper vines block the sunlight so the production was much less on the lower level. For me, I installed a Geneva double curtain system and that has worked very well for me. They say you get about 30% more grapes and since I have a U-Pick, I'll take all I can get.

As far as pruning the vigorous laterals versus the light weight ones, the same pruning rules mentioned above still apply. Some of the "first year" laterals I prune the following February are 5-6 feet long. When I'm finished pruning a plant there is usually no pruned "year old" lateral longer than 4-6" and all of the laterals coming off the main trunk (coming from the ground to the wire) are gone. Also, any laterals growing directly from the 10' cordon tied to the wire are no less than the width of my hand from each other.

Hope this helps,


    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 1:12PM
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Ken, funny you should mention that Geneva thing. I was just reading Southern Regional Small Fruit Consortium "Muscadine Production Guide" and found this-


Training vines to the trellis is an important part of muscadine production and requires considerable skill and patience.There are four potential systems you may wish to consider. 1. Multiple trunk, trained to a single wire.2. Multiple trunk, trained to a double wire (Geneva Double Curtain). 3. Single trunk, trained to a single wire. 4. Single trunk, trained to a double wire (Geneva Double Curtain)."

They don't really describe them very well. Is the Geneva thing like putting a 2X4 crosspiece on the posts and running a second wire same height as the 5 1/2' one? Could I do that, so as to not cut off all the extra laterals? How far apart are the wires on your Geneva?

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 2:27PM
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My posts look like a T with a bar at the top a minimum of 3 feet long to get enough separation for the vines (42 inches works just about right). Think about how fast muscadines grow and you will see why they have to be separated. Each row of vines has 2 parallel wires to run on at a height of 6 feet. This is a convenient height to walk under the vines to pick fruit. I maintain 1 cane on each wire, if one gets damaged I still get production from the other. My vines are planted about 2 feet from the posts so that all of the canes are running in the same direction down the wires to the North. Posts should be between 15 and 20 feet apart depending on soil type. Rows should be at least 15 feet apart though some growers use 12 feet successfully if they irrigate.

Muscadine vines can use about 10 pounds of 13-13-13 per year per plant for a large older vine. I've had problems with production if the soil PH got too low so don't forget to check if lime is needed.


    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 4:14PM
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I looked at a Cornell design that uses 4' crosspieces, and I think I'll try the Geneva for 4 vines this summer. Should be interesting tightening the wires, may need something bigger than a 2X4.

So, the question of total number of buds per vine is not a firm number? You say 30% more grapes with Geneva's 40' of wire per vine, compared to the single wire system or 20' per vine. And you were told by your mentor "2 canes per plant and limit them to at most 15 feet per cane."

It seems like you wind up with more fruitwood every year, as the spurs develop, regardless of the trellis. Anyway at this point my inclination is to leave as many buds as I can, to get as much production as possible.

But tell me if that's wrong.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 6:22PM
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If you leave as many buds as you can, at some point, vegetative growth will be so heavy that shading will cut your crop. Note what I said above about trimming out fruiting spurs so they are about a foot apart on the cane. Better yet, get a copy of Ison's All about Muscadines. The graphics and description are much better than me telling about it.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 12:11AM
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I do appreciate your insight and advice about this subject. What I'm asking for is a number. My most vigorous vines are 3-year olds just coming into production. They have enough long canes to tie to a Geneva, or could be pruned to just two 10' canes on the single wire.

How many buds should be left this season? The spurs are not close together yet, there are maybe 4-6 branches off each arm at this point, each of which will be pruned to 2-4 buds.

Is 30 buds total too few to leave? Would 60 be too many?

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 7:28AM
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Here's a picture of my Geneva rows. My wires are about 42" apart. I cut a hole in the top of the post and put a 4' piece of 5/8" rebar through it. However, I'm thinking of also purchasing some angled steel arms this winter mounted on t-posts to keep the wires from sliding in high winds.

You can see one trunk coming out of the ground and splitting in two half way up. Once they get to their respective wires, they split again with one vine (cordon) going 10' one way and the other going 10' in the other direction. Ideally, your rows should run north-south as DarJones mentioned so that that both sides get the same sun.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 10:47AM
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That's a beautiful picture, Ken. It looks like your rows are more than 10' or 12' apart. More like 15'? My first two were 10' apart but that proved too narrow to drive my truck through comfortably, so I moved one of the trellises over and changed to 12' between rows.

Interesting that both you and DarJones are using the Geneva system.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 8:30AM
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I think they are 14' apart. That way we can get two passes with the tractor and 5' finishing mower down the middle and also allow plenty of space for pickers to enjoy their time on a row without being back to back with someone else on the opposite row. However, by the time the vines are fully developed in August, we can barely get the tractor down the row once as they get pretty busy.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 11:15AM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

Muscadine For home use plant Cowart and fry I use cattle panel and 4 T post bend upside down U shape attach to T post with copper wire ends panel up off ground clearance for weed-eater. Picking under vines pay off when hot ever thing grows off main trunk weave through squares panel are cut off. Wild Muscadine I've tamed a couple they make a lot vines and good fruit but small fruits I train to one wire used guywire wire and large post they grow 25 to 30 feet one way I prune them with hedger don't worry about number buds left just take vine along wire down 75% fertilizer once in spring before growth starts more you be making vine reeves. I know off topic but I think visitors to this thread enjoy link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to blackberries page 13 to 18

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 3:44PM
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Hey, gator rider.

That's a different idea for a muscadine trellis. 16' X 52" cattle panel is $17 at Home Depot, and would sure be sturdy and permanent. Kind of an instant arbor, arched tall enough to walk under. Pinned at the 4 corners with metal posts. Am I picturing it right? Do you plant two vines, one at either end?

Thanks for the thoughts about taming wild muscadines. I was thinking of something similar- a 50' used guy wire would let me tie the long trunks up, then turn the smaller vines (which used to be up at the top of a tall tree) back towards the middle.

My first one hasn't made any fruit yet, but it bloomed really well last year. Thinking of planting a pollinator to run on the same trellis. Ison does real good here, starts putting on grapes right away.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 9:00AM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

Am I picturing it right? Yes

Do you plant two vines, one at either end? Yes & no I was gave 9 plants from father to Daughter they were dying in pots lack care I saved 4 out 9 so planted in soil see they live and did with no plans of trellising. I like to pick under muscadine vine watching deer feed that way I copied. As luck 2 West were cowart and 2 East were fry. Once over crowing will remove one each variety. My plan Swing set in Sun mid-day to plant 2 wild vines and 2 cattle panel up high swing on 16 ft. 6x6 treated. Have you travel out Texarkana 82W saw vine reeves on right there guy that makes thousands ever year. There vineyard beyond Mt. Pleasant on I30W next exit to left take by Pilgrim's Pride to Pittsburg straight through town one mile out on right turn then one mile to vineyard or best google Pittsburg, TX Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 3:27PM
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I do drive past Rosas Vine Co on Hwy 82. Some folks that read this may not know about florist's grapevine wreaths, but it's little southern industry. I had a friend back in Tennessee who not only made them himself, but bought standard sizes from families that pulled down the vines, rolled them, and hauled them to his farm. Then he'd fill a semi-trailer and drive up north to sell them.

I do wonder a little about the fertilizer amounts that are recommended. Some of my vines are very vigorous with just one cup of 8-8-8. I guess they need more when producing a big fruit crop.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 3:09PM
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