Grapes.... Reflections on failing. A solution?

bob_in_coloradoJuly 24, 2014

So I tried planting a mini-vineyard of table grapes, all suitable to this zone. 8-10 varieties, 17-20 plants in all.

Every year I planted them, they were barefoot plants, planted in the spring at the right time. I planted them with grow tubes which were recommended, cared for them, watered them, loved them. They grew massive canes, big leafs, etc. And 90% of the time, they died over the winter and didn't come back next spring. In a few cases, the canes would die, and they'd try to grow new canes the following year, then die the next year.

My first attempt was with grafted vines. Then I tried own root vines thinking, well, if the tops die, they'll grow back true to type. Those died also. I tried planting them at soil level and on mounds,

I live east of Colorado Springs so the wind is common out here. I thought maybe the winds were desiccating the canes, so I sprayed them with wilt-pruf at the right time after they'd gone dormant. That's an anti-transpirant for those who don't know. Great for pines, still dead vines.

So then I gave up on grapes.

After a year, I decided, well maybe I need to amend my soil better. The rows the grapes were planted in was decomposed granite and clay, then sand about 2 feet down. I amended the very large hole I dug for them with compost and pebbles and perlite and vermiculite to help the soil breathe. I decided to amend on a larger scale. I had a mini-excavator brought in, ripped the soil down to the sand layer, amended with compost and the same amendments as before except on a larger scale. Tried again, death once again. To this day, 3-years later, that soil is nice and easy to dig and will grow other things, no problems.

Yesterday, I was at a nursery looking at trees and shrubs and raspberries and I noticed they had some great looking grape vines. I thought to myself, only if......

Just before I started typing this, I had an epiphany. The root system!!

The bare root vines I had gotten previously didn't have greatly established root systems, barely any at all really. My thoughts are if I buy potted vines, with much better developed root systems and stick those in the ground, maybe they'll live! Eureka! Well maybe.... I'm considering buying a few, sticking them in the ground and seeing what happens.

Your thoughts?

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popmama Zone 5

I know nothing about growing grapes, but I admire your tenacity. You've already come this far. What's another attempt? Go for it!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 10:19PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I can't imagine what you're problem might be, Bob! I put in a Reliance about four years ago, not really expecting to ever get any fruit since it doesn't get "enough" sun, in my opinion, but last year I actually got a few very small bunches! This year there are lots of little bunches! I'm surprised, and delighted! And mine is planted in some pretty bad clay!

One thing that pretty much freaks me out every year is that as near as I can tell the plant has died over winter! This year I started to get a little bit used to it, but it starts growing very late, and until I can see new growth it absolutely looks dead--the vines "snap" off as if they were dead and I can find absolutely no visible signs of life. So, you haven't been digging yours up and throwing them away "too early," have you? I can't imagine that if you have several of them, but just thought I'd mention it since I was about to do that with mine the very first year!

I DID plant mine from a 2-gallon potted plant, so I think doing that would definitely give you an edge over bare root. And since you've been having such a (strange!) problem with them, I recommend trying just one or two at a time until you figure out what's going wrong. At least that way it won't be "quite so disappointing" as having a whole bunch of them dying.

I can't imagine this is the problem either, but, just trying to think of anything that could help, I can't use vermiculite in any soil I use or I invariably wind up keeping stuff too wet and rotting them off! Doesn't seem to me that would be a real problem in the ground, but is there any chance they were staying too wet?

On the other extreme, if you have "pure" sand just a couple feet down, is there any chance that "all" the water is running straight thru your planting layer, and that they're staying too dry? Like I said, just whatever possibilities I can think of! If you have two feet of "soil" on top of the sand, it's hard for me to imagine that's a real problem either! Maybe you just need to drive up here and take a load of my Colorado Clay home with you to plant them in!

I think wind/desiccation could be a very real problem, but I don't have any recommendations to help with that! And I also find it hard to believe that ALL of them would die, every time, from just that. I do tend to "hose mine down" (the vines) anytime I'm out hand watering over winter. But I always kind of assumed that made ME feel better than the plants! Not sure about that!

Well, you asked for Thoughts! There's a bunch of them! Not sure any of them will help tho!

I very definitely agree with PopMama! Your tenacity is amazing! And since it's something you really want, I say keep trying! Sooner or later something has to work!

Good luck! Let us know (next spring!) when you get one/some that make it!


    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 1:20AM
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So today I stopped and picked up 4 varieties in 3-gallon pots.

A himrod, reliance, canadice and a concord. My plan is to stick 2 of them in a nice sheltered raised bed area by my deck, and 2 of them in the ground in the same area where the bare root ones failed.

One thing I found encouraging is that I was digging in the grape graveyard area last weekend and the soil looks to be very improved! It's a nice dark loosely bound dirt that crumbles easily. I also noticed there were a lot of worms wherever I dug! Maybe the soil just sitting there the last few years was the time needed for all my improvements to come to fruition. :-)

Wish me luck! Planting day is tomorrow. :-)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 7:16PM
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