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William Bronson
Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

I've been pollarding my mulberry tree,  but I missed a year.
I've been cutting back my grape vine too, multiple times a year.
This spring I found the two conspiring.
Fruit on the vine,  fruit on the tree and the two locked in a loving embrace.
They get a reprieve, but I'm still cutting them down this fall and turn them into starts.
I hope to get them on an annual or biannual cycle.
Robert Kish
Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

I have a red oak tree that’s 15’ in circumference and the 1st branch is at 19’ up. It’s enormous, and it sits in my side yard with nothing around it. I had thought of using ropes to train kiwi up into it, I had never thought to use squash and beans.
Great advice!
My apples and grapes grow on an escipilliar together. Both are happy but only two years into it.
Darla Johnson
Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

For several years I struggled trying to get rid of both honeysuckle and wild grape. I guess I should’ve just encouraged the wild grape and maybe it would’ve gotten rid of the honeysuckle.
Heather Sharpe
Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

Something I have observed here on our homestead is that the Fox grapes are growing so well that they are killing the invasive bush honeysuckle by out competing it for light (I prefer the phrase “highly successful and bad at sharing” but will use invasive for simplicity). In most spots, one can’t even see any honeysuckle foliage and the trunks are rotting. It just looks like mountains of grape. This is very helpful, since it reduces the spread of the honeysuckle (as it can no longer produce fruit), makes far superior food for the birds and still creates heavy shade to keep the soil happy. It will probably also save us some work when we do eventually remove some of the honeysuckle skeletons, since their roots will be weakened/rotted. The downside is that most of the grapes are hard to reach. There is one cultivated grape climbing them which we presume the previous owner planted. It seems quite happy too and does have reachable fruit.
If folks already had invasive shrubs like that around, perhaps training grapes up them could be worth a try? One could even do a heavy pruning and/or girdle the shrub first to give advantage to the grape and keep fruit within easy reach.
I don’t know if cultivated grapes tend to be so successful, but maybe just a good thing to be aware of too..
Lisa Lebeau
Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

Henry Jabel wrote:Has anyone tried growing grapes up some of the larger bamboo species? My vine is small but its starting to invade the bamboo that is near it.

Oh man, that sounds kinda like gas and matches to me... Good luck trying to manage that combo!
wayne fajkus
Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

You are right about the water that they bring up. I cut a 3" vine and i thought i turned a spigot on. It was amazing.

Heres a couple of pics. The swinging vine, a big vine, and a vine encompassing a tree. The last one is cool and there are animal trails going into the center. My wife thinks hummingbirds nest in them also. We leave them alone.
Ben Zumeta
Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

Very interesting observations Wayne. I am jealous of those vines! I would bet you would see a lower total yield of fruit of either the tree or grapes, but a lot of what great winemaker-vintners do for quality is thinning of the fruit for greater concentration and complexity.

The grapes and trees undoubtedly do trade root exudates via soil biota, and this would influence your fruit quality in my opinion and others’. It could theoretically lead to more resinous or unpalatable flavors with some trees, but according to some people who know wine better than I that it leads to some of the best possible juice with unparalleled complexity. I also speculate the deep rooting, mineral mining grapes draw up deep water and nutrients that get traded with soil life next to the tree’s surface roots and deposited on the soil in fall.

Vines do serve the function in nature of pulling down weakened or lopsided trees and opening up the canopy for regrowth. I would bet grapes would only kill a tree with physical breakage or possible rot from moisture. Kiwis do kill trees this way. I do not know of any allelopathy with these species.
wayne fajkus
Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

Ive got at least 3 spots on my property where mustang grapes are growing on and over a dead tree. I dont know if the grapes killed the tree or took advantage of the dead tree.

I pulled grape vines off a big (live)oak tree. The vines may have been 50 ft long. I had to pull them off with a tractor. Theres still one vine hanging down that can hold a 200 pound person and we swing across a dry creek bed with it.

When i went harvesting the grapes,  the ones growing up oak trees were a chore to harvest. The only feasible way to get to them was to pull the vine out of the tree and pick the grapes. I have plenty of vines on fences, which are easy to get to.

I know of no symbiotic relationship to a tree. I see nothing on my acreage that says they would prefer trees over a fence or trellis, As they naturally occur on both.  

My observation leads to a potential to kill the tree, a harder harvest for both the tree and grapes, and no benefit(symbiotic) for either the grape or the tree.
Ben Zumeta
Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

My best friend works for a Westrey Winery, which puts on the Oregon Pinot Noir Festival. The owner gets to drink some damn good wine. In her travels she said that the best wines she had were in France and Italy from very old vines growing up large arbors and onto trees. At my friends' place we are planting some sun traps of grapes amidst south facing clearings in an over-aged orchard. Hopefully this will allow him to grow hot weather varietals in the Willamette Valley.
wren haffner
Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

What a great thread! I especially loved the insight into the French "culture en hautain".

We are creating food forests on our Ozark homestead mimicking what is already taking place here as well as implementing ideas found from around the world.

This year, as I was observing patterns already taking place on the land, I noticed a niche wherein a wild grape variety was very successfully trellising on a native dogwood. In this expanded guild, we also have

  • native persimmons (that were already here, they are like a "weed" on our land) which we plan to graft onto with select cultivars
  • canby raspberries, asparagus, aronia, comfrey mugwort, holy basil, mint we planted this year
  • select annuals like squash which we use to fill in the existing space

  • I got a good harvest from these grapes this year and in future years, once the other things we've planted start to make the planting denser, it's okay with me if things start to phase out or if I need to prune. To me, that's a part of a living food forest, different stories taking more of a central focus as it grows and matures and based on what the cultivator wants.

    Excited by this concept of planting vines amongst trees, we also planted Ken's Red Hardy Kiwi amongst our 16-25 ft tall existing native persimmons. We may not get as great of yields as we might if the kiwis were trellised with full sun, but it mimics what the Chinese have done with the hardy kiwi (harvest it from the understory) and so it seems worth the trial. Doing this also keeps the food forest growing and diverse and not the arbored trellised areas which are basically tended as monocrops.

    David Doc
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    I have some experiences since the land i own was earlier a very small vinery and therefore the grapes are popping out from the ground pretty often.
    We let some of them grow so there are three pretty mature know. One on a PLum one on a wild cherry and one on a walnut.
    We prune them both (the tree less more the grape) and it works fine.
    Jane Southall
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Following this.  I just had some fox grapes volunteer near the base of a red maple.  Others have appropriately volunteered along fences.  I let them be because there is a reason for everything, I feel.  
    Brad Mayeux
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    by the way,
    this is a Muntingia Calabura (strawberry tree) that had died at 2 yrs old
    it got over 12ft, and i had cut it back like 5 times last summer.
    in January we got hit with 27F temps. lowest ive seen in 10yrs.
    it killed the plant (it started coming back in spring, but 20 days of rain finished the job)

    anyway, i let a passionflower , a grape tomato, and a watermelon climb it.
    (i planted 3 species to see which one i really wanted, and would kill one or 2 later on)

    the rain killed the watermelon (with a softball size fruit hanging on 5ft in the air)
    and the heat killed the tomato.

    now ive got a passionflower with lots of room to climb.
    glad i planted 3 species.

    Brad Mayeux
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    i had planted 5 muscadines
    2 by themselves, and another 3 together (within 5 ft of each other)

    in the 2 by themselves, i had let 1 grow up a new seedling mulberry that had volunteered itself. (about 6ft tall and growing)
    i planted a black locust next to it for it to climb next year.

    the other by itself is growing up a maple that also volunteered itself, about 8ft tall.

    in both cases i added 2 bamboo poles i had about 8 to 10ft tall
    and strung some heavy twine between them in 3 spots in a triangle fashion
    one twine at 4ft, another at 6ft another at 8ft.
    this gives the vine 3 levels, and the triangle shape, makes good use of sunlight.

    the other spot with 3 vines 5ft apart
    i had grown a couple of sunflowers around 7ft
    a 10ft mulberry, and a goldenrod (weed) i let grow to 8ft+

    its kind of a mess, there was almost no planning, and the 2 times i tried to force a vine up a string to a sunflower, it didnt listen.
    they also grew so fast, the new growth just took over, and i couldnt tell what was something i wanted to keep, or not.
    the 3 vines are intertwined, at least to some extent.

    anyway, it was very easy... LOL
    not a lot of time spent in prep, design, or maintenance.
    (putting a few sunflower seeds in the ground, and running some twine = 20 mins all season)

    oh, i also hammered in a few large staples to my fence
    and ran some twine through that too.

    theres lots of healthy muscadine on those vines right now
    waiting to ripen.

    3 vines grown together.
    sunflower plants hidden or rotted.

    Victor Johanson
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Mark Shepard mentioned in his book, Restoration Agriculture, that he uses fruit trees as grape arbors successfully in Wisconsin.
    Dale Hodgins
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Here's some photos gleaned from the internet. My brother Jeff, who lives in Mexico, grows many things up trees, including chayote squash. I'll see if he's got some pictures.
    Lee Kochel
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    The one thing to be careful of is that it seems one of the primary ecological roles for grapes is the same as that of figs: they will eventually encircle and strangle a tree.  So if you want both the tree and the grape, you have to keep an eye on the grape.
    Terry Darwin
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    When I was young, my family rented an old farm for several years. It had been run down for a long time before we lived there. Up on a hill were 2 apple trees and a grape vine. The vine had climbed up over both trees, and was so thick we could walk along the top of one of the trees, and in several places on the other one. The grapes were amazingly huge, full bunches with no pruning or care from anyone. My brothers, sisters and I  spent a lot of time in those trees, and I know it wasnt until years and years after we had moved that I learned there was no such thing as an "apple and grape" tree. The vines themselves were as large around as a branch. Looking back, I think the vines were probably shading the apples a little too much, I dont remember there being a huge amount of them- but they were very old apple trees.
    So based solely on that I say go for it, I know I am planning to when we finally buy our retirement property.
    Henry Jabel
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Has anyone tried growing grapes up some of the larger bamboo species? My vine is small but its starting to invade the bamboo that is near it.
    Dale Hodgins
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    It's possible to prune some trees to death. This may not be a bad thing, if it has reached a suitable size, and if it's a type that doesn't rot away quickly.

    Just about any tree can be easily killed by girdling. Slice off a ring of bark just above the soil line.

    I was thinking that black locust might be the perfect tree to grow in this manner and then kill, since they last quite a while dead. But one problem with this might be that the moment you kill that trunk, the root system may send up 100 little suckers. This is common with plum as well.

    So, it might be better to keep trunks living and barely growing.
    Hans mentioned using his hedge cutter. My Stihl cordless electric hedge cutter is the most amazing chop and drop tool ever devised. Great for knocking back all leafing branches, if desired. Suppose a tree is being used to support annuals like squash and beans. The hedge cutter can be used early in the season, and any suckers that shoot for the sky, a month later, can be trimmed off at a desirable height from the trunk, without damaging the crop that clings to the larger branches. The same tool can be run an inch over the ground, to cut off weeds.
    Jim Fry
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Here in N. Ohio we have some of the best soil on Earth and we have plentiful rain. ....Things grow really well. I believe that an important part of permaculture is to manage things for the long term good of all things. Because plants grow so well here, I never, ever allow grapes to grow in trees. Grape vines are a parasite and will eventually kill the tree by cutting off its light and will eventually drag the tree to the ground. I don't like to sacrifice one life for another. We build arbors for the grapes. If you build them right, the grapes will set fruit at a proper height for easy efficient harvest, yet be off the ground away from problems. And if you prune them right, which would be very hard to do in a tree top, enough air flows thru the grape vines to avoid certain diseases and blight. Sometimes the easiest solution is not the best long term permaculture solution.
    Dan Boone
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    I have a 40-foot hackberry tree at the edge of the yard with a wild grape vine growing all through it.  Usually it doesn't fruit (anywhere I can see from beneath the canopy anyway) but last year it did, and I was able to hook and pull down the productive tips of some of the vines.  Now I am training them horizontally along a nearby fence and once I have them there, I'm going to try to stimulate fruit production by pruning.
    Hans Quistorff
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Plum trees are working for me. They are sacrificed trees because the grapes shade them to the extent that they barely survive and don't produce any fruit. The green gauge plumbs grow rappedly from the pits so I always have an excess of them. They can also be polard to make living posts to tie up my raspberry vines.
    This time of year I start running the hedge trimmer along the top and sides of the grapes just outside the fruit clusters to keep the vines and trees in bounds.
    Dale Hodgins
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Around here, it's hard to kill certain types of plum trees. I could see pollarding and espalier pruning being useful. What we need is a trellis that doesn't rot and that we don't have to build or support.

    My brother Jeff, lives in Mexico and he battles some very aggressive weeds. His number one strategy is to cast some shade on them, by really filling out the canopy of trees, with things that are rooted beside the tree.

    Locust trees cast fairly light shade and they withstand heavy pruning. Nitrogen is produced.

    Autumn olives withstand heavy pruning and they are a nitrogen producer.

    I think this is companion planting at its finest, when a crop that needs support is able to climb a tree that produces nitrogen.
    Tracy Wandling
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    I love the idea of growing grapes in a food forest. I'm thinking that planting them on a tree that is strong, but also isn't overly 'leafy' would work. We have a couple of golden locust trees, and they don't have heavy leaf cover, but are very strong. I think they are good candidates for being grape trellises. I'll have to take a look and see what other trees would work. When I plant my food forest, I'm definitely going to plan for this.

    And I LOVE the idea of having squash climbing my trees! Luffahs and cool gourds would look fantastic. I'm very excited to get going on my food forest. Now just to find a place to plant it . . .
    Michael Cox
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    If this were me, I would consider establishing a orchard of trees that respond well to pollarding. Grow them for a few years, through at least one pollarding cycle, to establish a basic shape, then plant the vines.

    Rope or wire can be strung between the trees to provide a support for the grapes.

    I don't want to be on huge ladders to pick fruit, and this gives multiple yeilds - timber, grapes and potentially fruit from the trees as well, depending what you use.
    Roy Hinkley
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    This year I planted grapes at the base of some of our native hawthorn trees. I hope the thorns will discourage some of the ground based pests and will prune the hawthorns as needed to favor the grapes.
    I've also planted some thorny honey locust  with the same purpose in mind.
    Marcus Billings
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Oh, and Dale, those photos are great.  I love the thought of mixing the climbing annuals into the trees.  Very multipurpose.  This just proves that there really are people out there who have it figured out.  We just need to keep our eyes open.
    Marcus Billings
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Thank you all for the replies!  Burra, the photos are wonderful! The grapes look exceptional, how's the fruit production on the trees themselves? And Andrien, that's a great painting! I guess permaculture has been practiced for quite a while.  Based on what I've seen, this seems to be a viable system.  The trees may need a little pruning, but I think it will be a winner.  It only makes sense that a living grape arbor would last longer than a constructed one.   Burra, I notice the same thing with my established blackberries-the ones that are set back into the forest edge and are shaded considerably more than their neighbors tend to mature later, which actually works out quite well.  Thanks again everyone, I'll be putting in more grapes next year and they be at the base of trees.
    Dale Hodgins
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    This lady is from Slovenia. She is 87 and quite fit. She grows a variety of vining items over her heavily pruned plum trees at a community garden in Victoria. I asked her about weather this technique is common in Slovenia. She said that commercial growers use wooden stakes, but on her family farm and others around her, people would never waste wood by putting it in the ground. They plant lots of fruit trees that are trained for the purpose of supporting squash, melons, climbing beans and grapes to name a few.

    Most things that will burrow into her squash, live in or on the soil. They can't find them when they're up in the trees, so she harvests a lot of really perfect looking fruit. Her cucumbers look the same on all sides. I had many more pictures, but after making a pocket call with my cell phone and walking around with it going bleep bleep, many of my photos were lost.
    Adrien Lapointe
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Apparently this technique was quite common in France. It is called "culture en hautain". From what I read, they used a wide range of tree species ( elms, oaks, ashes, hornbeams, dogwoods, maples, willows, aspens, black locusts, mulberries, plum trees, olive trees, etc.) and they would prune them a certain way to increase the light level reaching the grapes.

    I am not sure if there is a good article in English, but here is one in French:
    Dale Hodgins
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Maple trees reach for the sky. Without some heavy pruning, the grapes would soon be difficult to harvest. I have seen them trained on pollarded plum trees. It could probably work on maple as well, if they were managed at a reasonable height. Many fruit trees are already pruned with harvesting height in mind.

    This can cause delayed flowering of the fruit trees, which can sometimes be a good thing, since later flowering trees are less likely to lose those flowers to frost.
    Burra Maluca
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    Some of the trees near our well have been taken over by grapes.

    This is a tangerine tree.


    The grape vines tend to climb through the trees to gain a bit of height and produce fruit where they emerge into the sunlight.

    Notice how abundant they are at the edge of the canopy where there is plenty of light.


    Though they will fruit in places that are little sub-optimal. These will probably ripen later than the others. Which means we will often still be eating fresh grapes in November.


    The grape vines will grow from tree to tree without ever touching the floor. Here they are being supported by my nespera (loquat) tree.


    They've also grown all over the old donkey powered machinery that used to raise the irrigation water.  Not sure how I'm going to pick those...


    My husband says there's a pine tree down in his garden that's almost covered by a grape vine.  I'll try to find it next time I'm down there and see what that can teach us.  
    Gregg Carter
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    There is another thread that discusses that. The general concensus was the fear of taking longer for the grapes to mature. I am wanting to do basically the same thing. Good luck.
    Marcus Billings
    Post     Subject: Using trees as arbor for grapes

    A few weeks back I planted grapes  at the base of 2 year old maples trees in hopes that the lower branches of the maple will work as a living arbor.  Does anyone have any mature grapes that they've done something similar with?   I was interested if you did any pruning to open up the foliage for the grapes or what other steps you've taken.

    Thanks in advance.