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Grape Vines in the Forest Garden

Charlie Michaels


Joined: Jan 17, 2010
Posts: 124
Grape are a staple fruit for many cultures, but they always seem to need separate trellises

Is it practical to have grapes growing into your fruit and nut (or timber) trees in your forest garden? I was thinking major factors against this would be practicality of harvest, the health of the fruit trees being used as a scaffold, and reducing the availability of life.

I'm always thinking of ways to increase the productivity of a space or a species, and plus using other trees and shrubs as a trellis is the way it works in nature.
Are there species of grape that would be easier to manage to make this setup practical?
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
I've read that grapes were traditionally coppiced, without resorting to a trellis.

After the Columbian Exchange, old-world grapes couldn't profitably be managed this way, due to new-world diseases. I think Concord grape rootstock is the usual, grafted onto European varieties aboveground.

Unless you're growing commercially, you can probably get away with using pre-trellis methods. A mix of varieties, including perhaps some California native grapes and some Concord grapes, would allow you to weather the loss of some individuals without the complete loss of a staple.

IIRC, Cato the Elder wrote a little bit about classical (Verily!) methods of grape production.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Jeff Mathias


Joined: Feb 19, 2009
Posts: 121
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
    
    1
Since grapes produce fruit on first year wood you really should not have much problem since you will need to prune them yearly anyway. That being said I would not train them up new, young or sickly trees; but strong well established trees with thick lower limbs should not be a problem.

I train mine down the fence line leaving one single main vine each year, when it gets where I want it I cut it at the growth tip. This causes my vine to shoot out vines all down the length of the main vine. Many of these reach out and grab other plants, but since I cut them all back to the main vine each year they never really get a chance to constrict anything else. During the growing part of the year if a vine does get out of hand cut the growth tip at night so it will quit reaching, cut it at night so it has a chance to heal over before the morning when cutting it will make the vine bleed. I made this mistake once it is amazing how much it can bleed, if it happens I took a torch to the cut end and cauterized the wound it worked fine and the vine seemed to take no effect from the heat of the torch.

If you are really worried simply train the main vine that you will not cut yearly in the first years where you want it to go an be sure it cannot damage anything delicate. Then just make sure each year it doesn't grow into anything delicate and if it does do the evening pruning to correct that. Then yearly cut it back to keep it managed. One tip: if it does get into something make sure you cut the tendrils that the vine uses to grip and hold. You will do more damage to the other plant by cutting the vine and pulling it out without cutting all the tendrils it is using to grip the other plants.

I can imagine training the vines up the first tree trunk and then from trunk to trunk horizontally without actually wrapping around the trunks. This would allow the fruiting vines to grow and hang down and would make for some shade and easy harvesting. Remember grapes LOVE sun so you probably want them on the outside edge of the forest garden.

I see Joel posted as I was typing and I can add that a number of the older and smaller vineyards in my area still practice the traditional coppiced method today. I bet it helps to hide to grapes from the birds better than trellising does. Also I see with this method that a second thinning sort of cutting is done just before or as the hottest days approach; also done in the late afternoon/evening. I am guessing it is to allow air circulation on those hottest days as well as to focus energy on fruit production instead of leaf growth.

Good Luck,

Jeff



"Study books and observe nature. When the two don't agree, throw out the books" -William A Albrecht
"You cannot reason a man out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." - Benjamin Franklin
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
when we bought our property there were some ancient grape vines on the property and in the woods around the property there were wild grape vines growing up over trees, and very productive.

people always write in their cultivation information on grapes that they require full sun and a lot of pruning..and i'll admit they do produce more when they are pruned and get some sun..but....all of the vines on our property grow up on arbors and trellises, or up trees.

i walk for exercise, and it amazes me how much i see grapes around here growing up over bushes and trees all along the roads for miles around our home.

my ancient vines are up over a trellis in our front yard..the new vines i buy every few years all go up over their own new arbors..as i like shady spots to sit my self and like looking up at grape clusters hanging down...see photos 3 and 5 in this link

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=26836&id=1846485863&l=b6e344ec44.


the wild grapes are heavy with grapes all over..both in our woods and along the roadways..they are hanging heavy with clusters, so heavy that along a 2 track county road 3/10 of a mile from my house, the grape vine actually has pulled down and collapsed some very young tree saplings to where the sapling is laying covered with grapes right out into the roadway..by a couple of feet, people just drive around it and don't even cut it or move it..go figure..i do live in a rural area.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Patrick Freeburger


Joined: Nov 09, 2009
Posts: 57
I don't know the etiquette on posting to old threads, but I wanted to add these photos.  I had a similar question  to Mr. Chuck,  but after much searching, I found very little on the inter-web.  Attached are two photos of coppiced grapes I came across. 


http://www.ayearinwine.com/2010/12/in-amador-striking-new-winery-turns.html
http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/2010/08/18/the-earliest-history-of-grape-growing-in-suisun-valley/


[Thumbnail for coppiced grapes.jpg]

[Thumbnail for no trellis.JPG]

Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 4618
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
174
We have an old grape vine that grows in a shady part of the garden.  It fruits well, but the grapes aren't ripe until later in the year.  Which means I'm still eating fresh grapes in November when they're just a memory for any of the neighbours who grow them all 'properly' in full sun. 


What is a Mother Tree ?
Charlie Michaels


Joined: Jan 17, 2010
Posts: 124
Hm it seems that coppicing is the best idea. Can you coppice grape vines to just barely off the ground?


Fritz Charlton


Joined: Feb 28, 2011
Posts: 18
Location: Indiana near Chicago
Oppostie direction?  Can I take wild grape vines, I have found in the woods, tearing down trees, uproot them and replant somewhere sunnier?

OR... since these Huge (40-50-maybe 60 ft in some cases)vines are growing great where they are (well, minus the fruit), would it be enough to prune them where they are?  PS, they were climbing naturally thru apple trees.  Neither planted, by me at least...  It seemed to me to be killing a lot of apple branches (reachable otherwise great picking limbs) on a strong tree

Left unanswered, I will try both... who am I kidding, I am going to try both, but would love to know what others have done.  The experiment continues....
Emerson White


Joined: May 02, 2010
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
Why not just clone the wild grapes?

A photo of grape vines growing naturally through apple trees would be a great addition to the thread.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
if i can borrow a camera, i have grape vines growing up all types of trees. oak, maple, fruit, shrubs, walnut, and lots of them in the wild.

fritz- if your going to dig up a wild plant, dig up a small one that you know will live. trying to dig up a 40ft grape vine will kill it surely. and a waste of life.

the best way would be to find one that does fruit well and tastes good. then you can take cuttings and clone that like Emerson suggested.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
lots of our  grapes grow in the shade..and they do fine..would they do better in full sun? well we might find out as our HUGE ash tree may have to come down, which shades them..I hope not
Fritz Charlton


Joined: Feb 28, 2011
Posts: 18
Location: Indiana near Chicago
From what I can tell, these grapes have choked out quite a few trees.  Now, it maybe birds eating them, or that the new growth is way out of sight, but I seldom see grapes on these vines. 

I am sure it will also please this population to hear that wild blackberries are also found along the drip edge of the apple trees.  They have arranged themselves usually where you will find the grape vine in the southwest and the blackberries in the northeast, both in respect to the placement of an apple tree.  There are at least 10 "naturally" occurring *not planted by me* apple trees.  At least half have this grape/black/apple arrangement and pattern.  Of the other half, almost all are within reach of a mulberry.

The grapes have literally torn down trees and ruined branches on others.  With a 40+ vine, are there traditional pruning options/ possibilities?  IE cut back, and allow accessable new growth.

I have no idea what the capabilities of these grapes are.  There is a property not too far away that has a small trellised grape system.  Could these be the dropping from those?
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6498
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
Could be.  The birds are probably dining at the neighbor's vineyard, and living in your trees.
Rob Sigg


Joined: Feb 04, 2010
Posts: 710
Location: PA-Zone 6
Im going to bring this thread back, because surely there has to be info out there on coppicing grapes. What what I understand about grapes, it seems that the main cordon would simply be trained straight up and not out like arbors etc. Then from there the canes would grow out, and be pruned as if there hanging horizontally. Thoughts?


permaculture wiki: www.permies.com/permaculture
Rob Sigg


Joined: Feb 04, 2010
Posts: 710
Location: PA-Zone 6
I just had another thought. I wonder if grapes do better with fruit when the cordon is horizontal vs vertical? Do they function like tree limbs in the sense that the bear fruit when weighted down(festooned)? If so it would make sense why most pleaces grown them on an arbor and trellis.
Mekka Pakanohida


Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
Rob S. aka Blitz wrote:
I just had another thought. I wonder if grapes do better with fruit when the cordon is horizontal vs vertical? Do they function like tree limbs in the sense that the bear fruit when weighted down(festooned)? If so it would make sense why most pleaces grown them on an arbor and trellis.


No, they can't handle the weight.
Rob Sigg


Joined: Feb 04, 2010
Posts: 710
Location: PA-Zone 6
Im confused on your answer, are you saying they cant handle weight because they are horizontal? That is why they tie them up and support the cordon. Im talking mostly about the physiological response to limbs being horizontal vs vertical.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
i find horizontal limbs fruiting more in the wild. usually the ones that go up are the ones that climb from layer to layer in the tree, and then side branches grow out and fruit.
Rob Sigg


Joined: Feb 04, 2010
Posts: 710
Location: PA-Zone 6
That would make sense. Its almost like they climb until they can go out, and if they can't or don't go out will they still fruit? Seems like a lot of trivial questions, but Im in a limited space with no vertical parts to work with. I really don't want to build a system to grow them on since I want 6 different vines, and very little space. That is why coppicing looked so appealing, but the more I understand the situation, our new world varieties don't do well with that sytem?
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6498
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
Wild grapes typically grow up trees for support.  Those grapes are unsuitable for fruit (or wine), as the leaves will not get enough sun to produce large clusters of sweet fruit.  Modern grapes are trellised so the owners do not need to carry 40 foot ladders to harvest (sour) grapes.  The canes get good exposure to the sun, and consequently produce large clusters of sweet grapes.  Proper management is possible if they grow at man's height.  The leaves need sunlight to make sugar, so don't bury them in too deep shade.
Rob Sigg


Joined: Feb 04, 2010
Posts: 710
Location: PA-Zone 6
I guess what Im asking is.....is there anyway to grow the grapes at man's height, with lots of sun exposure without training them on a trellis or arbor?
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 4618
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
174
Ours grow up the walls around the well and fruit normally.  We also have one that grows along the old irrigation channel and up the old trees that grow alongside it.  We have plenty of sun but these are in deep(ish) shade so these grapes ripen much later than the others.  I don't mind though - it means we are still eating grapes in November when everyone else has long since run out.  I guess it depends on your climate - if sun is in short supply then you want to use every scrap you can get.  If you have plenty, then I don't see the problem in growing grapes in the partial shade of trees.  I often scrump abandoned grapes from vines growing the forest that are growing up ancient fruit trees and they seem perfectly sweet to me.
Rob Sigg


Joined: Feb 04, 2010
Posts: 710
Location: PA-Zone 6
Just to clarify, I am not interested in growing them in trees. Just an alternate method to trellis and/or arbor.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
Those grapes are unsuitable for fruit (or wine), as the leaves will not get enough sun to produce large clusters of sweet fruit.


that's silly, we harvested 25 lbs of grapes off a wild grape that grows in an oak tree two years ago, and last year it was 27 lbs. made some excellent juice and wild sourdough starter, cant wait for this years harvest as i just ran out of last years.

SOME wild grapes are unsuitable in the way you say, but not all.
                            


Joined: Aug 13, 2010
Posts: 27
Location: Southern California, Zone 10
Anyone have thoughts on grapes in a citrus guild? My grape vines need a home (they are currently in large pots) and my citrus trees are suffering from sun scorch, so I thought it might be a win-win. They both seem to need slightly acidic, deep, sandy loam.  If anyone has thoughts or comments I'd appreciate it.  Thanks as always for the great information here!
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
i have found that grapes grow easily from cuttings and I believe they can also be layered.
Rahul Maitra


Joined: Mar 09, 2012
Posts: 2
Jordan Lowery wrote:if i can borrow a camera, i have grape vines growing up all types of trees. oak, maple, fruit, shrubs, walnut, and lots of them in the wild.

fritz- if your going to dig up a wild plant, dig up a small one that you know will live. trying to dig up a 40ft grape vine will kill it surely. and a waste of life.

the best way would be to find one that does fruit well and tastes good. then you can take cuttings and clone that like Emerson suggested.


I just received four 4'-6' grape vines and three 2' vines. I was hoping to companion plant a fruit tree with each grape vine.

I also have potential spots to plant the grape vines near 8'-11' tall young black locust trees. I was thinking of planting the grapes near the black locusts and "pollacing" (Like coppicing, but higher up the trunk) them at the level of the grape vine while leaving all the lower branches in tact for trellising. This would ensure the grape has a trellis and enough sun.

Would the young fruit tree samplings (only 2' high) be hurt/damaged in the long term by planting 2'high grape vines near them. So as the young tree grows, the grape grows with it.

Would these ideas work, or is this just a permaculture dream of mine?

PLEASE HELP SOMEONE! THESE GRAPES NEED TO GO IN THE GROUND SOON!!!
duane hennon
volunteer

Joined: Sep 23, 2010
Posts: 386
    
  10


hi Ruhal

the locust tree idea is similiar to what I have done . my trees were about 30 feet tall, I cut them off at about 7 feet, cut the top in two pieces. the bottom piece i used as a post and the top piece I tied to the top of the trunk and post. this give me an arch i can walk under and a support for my grapes.
so yes planting grapes to grow on black locus is ok

I wouldn't grow grapes on fruit trees as the grapes would turn the tree into a support rather than something that produces fruit.
annual vines such as beans, cucumbers, etc would be ok since their growth is limited
Rahul Maitra


Joined: Mar 09, 2012
Posts: 2
Also, has anyone every successfully grown a vine (grape or kiwi) up a tree and then onto the side and roof of a house?

Did it damage anything? Did it work out well?
Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 847
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  14
I have often wondered about using a pollarded tree as a post for running wires for training grapes or fencing. I have a vague memory of a roman practice of using espallier maple with pleached branches as a framework on which to grow grapes, with both maple and grapes pruned, and the maple cultivated a predator population to reduce mites that affected the grapes. Of course disease and pest issues will vary, but the concept is interesting. I am experimenting with cottonwood for living fences, as the spring buds are medicinal, the shoots are good fodder, they grown very easily from cuttings in situ, and recent research identifies willow and cottonwood as nitrogen fixers (bacterial associate, like Alder and Frankia).


Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute
Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
Willy Kerlang


Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
I am having some trouble getting cloned vines to grow and I wonder if anyone here can help me. I took some cutting from my neighbors' very productive Concord (I think) vines, six buds to a cutting, and planted them with three buds in the ground and three above. Someone told me this is the way to do it. I planted them on the uphill (north facing) side of a brush fence that I have been making for the past few years out of discarded tree limbs, saplings, etc in the hopes that the vines would take over this fence. A year later none of them have done anything. I did little in the way of soil preparation and am wondering if this is the problem. What kind of soil do grapes like and how should I best prepare it?
Thanks!
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
because grapes grow with tendrils to grab rather than tightly encircling a plant with a huge deadly hug, they can safely grow up a healthy larger tree..with no harm to either..however..you still gotta prune them buggers..and do you want to climb the tree to do that?? and harvest might be out of reach.

we have grapes up a very large ash tree, and you can't get to them..but we also have grapes on arbors..which you can easily harvest and prune.
Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 847
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  14
@WillyK - I have not rooted grape cuttings myself but have done lots of other species. To from roots from scratch, plants generally perform well in a 'ideal garden soil' leaning toward sharper drainage when stems are more succeptible to fungal disease. If planting 'in the field', then your cost savings by using cuttings should generally be balanced by good site prep. I put cuttings in a garden bed at high density in late winter, basically treating them like vegetables, and lifting and transplanting them the following winter.
Cris Bessette
volunteer

Joined: May 20, 2011
Posts: 677
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 8A
    
  29
My two cents:
I have lots of wild grape vines that grow in the woods around my house, but generally they climb 20-40 feet up the pines, poplars,etc. and the fruit is waaaaay up there, and they are not very good for the tree's health, binding them up and pulling them over and generally making a mess of the branches,etc.

As far as grapes in the forest garden go- I think letting them grow up trees is going to get out of hand sooner or later. Keeping them at people height seems to be the best way.

A few years back I started working on a few of the wild vines that are at the forest's edge, severely pruning them back and putting up small sections of fence on steel posts or old tomato cages for the vines to grow on, basically a cross between coppicing and arbor style management.



duane hennon
volunteer

Joined: Sep 23, 2010
Posts: 386
    
  10


I let grapes grow on short trees. in my case I have a lot of russian olive growing everywhere. I plant a vine underneath. the short height 8-10 ft of the russian olive keeps the fruit in reach. the vines spread out into the branches and need less pruning than vines on trellis. any adventurous shoots looking for higher places are easier cut off.
Rex Nichols


Joined: Apr 12, 2011
Posts: 22
Location: Indiana, USA
I'm thinking of using hemp rope instead of high tensile wire on a traditional type grape rellis--seems more natural to me, although less natural than using trees. I figure I wont have to worry about tightening and sagging from winter to summer. I'm hoping someone with more experience can let me know if I'm crazy before I invest the time and money into it. The trellis will only support two vines.
Calvin Mars


Joined: Oct 05, 2012
Posts: 32
    
    4
I highly encourage you to try muscadine varieties. They are completely pest resistant and taste really really good. They have leathery skins which are fine if you think of them as a replacement for bubblegum. Most modern cultivated varieties are super big wimps, being tragically susceptible to black rot. Hats off to folks that are cavorting with wild grapes.

Grapes are very easy to root from cuttings.

I have my grapes growing outside on a fence, mixed with thornless blackberries, and kiwi. I've even trained some of my neighbors to throw the seeds in strategic spots if they're going to cop a nibble (which is encouraged.)
Rex Nichols


Joined: Apr 12, 2011
Posts: 22
Location: Indiana, USA
[youtube]http://youtu.be/LWUuKr-nCfE[/youtube]

Sad Grapes YouTube Link

Well, I took the lack of response to my earlier question to mean no one had tried using rope to trellis grapes. So, I went ahead and did it. That is, after I neglected them for a year. I planted them last year. Since I was going to prune them the first winter, and I didn't know exactly how I was going to trellis them, I just let them grow on the ground. They were still pretty small in the winter, so I didn't prune them. I believe now, that was a mistake. Likewise, not trellising them the first year was a mistake.

Anyway, come June this year I still hadn't trellised them. I mowed around the vines while i tried to decide what I was going to do. Then one day I noticed there were already bunches of grapes growing on the vines. I decided I needed to trellis them quickly. So, I used rope. The vines had already started to harden in the "lying on the ground position." Also, separating the vines from the grass was not an easy task.

If you watch the video, you will see, the vines are in a sad state indeed. My plan is to let them grow this way until winter, then prune them way back and install a traditional steel wire trellis. I'm planning to put a more permanent fence around my garden. I think I'll try your suggestion, Calvin, and plant grapes, berries and kiwi to trellis the fence, thanks.
Michael Cox


Joined: Jun 09, 2013
Posts: 931
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
    
  24
Thanks for resurrecting this thread - i hadn't seen it before and was wondering what to do with my 6 grape cuttings which i struck last year. Coppicing looks like the way forward as i should be able to grow them in my orchard.

I struck he cuttings from a vine which has been growing in a pot in my parents green house for a few years. It was a gift and hey never really worked out what to do with it. I pruned the vine hard last winter and cut the sections down to about 10 inches, putting them in pots of good potting soil. Of the eight potted up, 6 struck successfully.

I lifted a couple from their pots to inspect the root growth (just curiosity) and was surprised how little root growth there was, despite vigorous leaves in spring and summer, just a handful of short 1 inch roots not really spreading through the pot. As someone suggested earlier, i intend to leave them in their pots until winter then plant them out after a full year getting established.

As far as getting the coppice established, I presume I will need to stake the cane for at least the first year to get a strong stem established. How much spread am i likely to see horizontally? I need to figure out a reasonable spacing from my other trees. Can i just trim the shoots in the growing season to keep it under control?

How tall can you grow the coppice stem? I was thinking of aiming for a final 'winter pruned' height of around 5ft.

Mike
Michael Cox


Joined: Jun 09, 2013
Posts: 931
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
    
  24


I found this video on grape pruning. Very helpful. There are two main methods - spur and cane pruning - and some grapes do better with one than the other. Spur looks easier.

Also, what we have been calling 'coppicing' tends to be refered to as standard or cordon training. I haven't seen much on training grapes without supports though.

 
 
subject: Grape Vines in the Forest Garden
 
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