What Are Muscadine Grapes
Muscadine grapes are the the native grapes of the southeastern United States. All of the “table grapes” and “wine grapes” were imported from Europe. But the muscadine grape can grace my table any time. One of the varieties of muscadine, the Scuppernong, is quite famous for it’s use in homemade wine. What are some of the differences between the European grapes and the muscadine? Generally the muscadine has a thicker skin, most have seeds and they tend to be sweeter and have a more robust flavor than the European variety. They are also more resistant to fungal diseases. Another difference is European grapes need a cold period to set fruit. The muscadine does not, in fact the temperature must not go below zero degrees F or it will kill the muscadine vines. The bloom season is later which makes it less prone to fail from late frosts.
Choosing The Right Muscadine For Your Garden
There are many different varieties that have been bred and hybridized. If you choose an early, a mid-season and a late variety, you will have an extended grape harvest time of up to twelve weeks. Other choices include color. They come in bronze, red and black. Flavor and sweetness also differ between the varieties. I have a Late Fry that is just delightful to pop in your mouth. They burst with flavor! I just got a pineapple, which is supposed to have a slight pineapple flavor. I can’t wait to try that one. There are so many to choose from. Do your homework before you buy, and if you have the room get several different kinds. If this is your first muscadine grape plant, and if you are only planting one. choose a self-fertile variety. They come in self-fertile and female varieties. A female will produce some fruit but will produce much more when a self-fertile variety is planted within 50 feet so they can cross pollinate.
How Do You Grow Muscadine Grapes
A muscadine grape will grow in a wide range of soil types, but make sure it has good drainage. You can plant it in a raised bed if any chance of standing water might be an issue. Before planting, prepare the area well, as this grape plant has been known to live for 350 years. You need a sight that has full sun. Run rows north and south. Dig deep to allow for the roots to easily penetrate any hard soil. Limey soils produce sweeter fruit. Preferably 6 – 7 PH, 6.8 is optimal but never over 7 PH. Set your posts, trellis or fence before planting. This is a very heavy vine and will need strong support. It is best to sink posts in concrete. Then plant near the post for added support. The roots are shallow so you need to protect them from over cultivation, and cold. You will need to mulch or even pile dirt around the first 3-4 inches of the trunk if you live in an area where the ground freezes. Then pull it back in the spring.
Don’t forget to water. Just as they don’t like to be standing in water, neither do they like to be all dried out. It takes a lot of water to make all those leaves and fruit. Without sufficient water you will get poor quality fruit. In northern regions give it less water in August so it can start to go dormant.
You should have annual soil tests to determine what your nutrient needs are. But a good way to tell if you are giving your plant what it needs is by growth. A muscadine should be growing about 3′ a year. The leaves produce the sugar for the fruit. if it grows less than is needed, the fruit quality will be low. In sandy soil the trace minerals are easily washed away so make sure they are replaced. The most likely things that will need to be added are nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium and boron. A good rule of thumb is to apply 1/4 lb. of 10-10-10 the first year. Increase this by 1/4 lb. each year for the first 4 years. But don’t forget the PH and the trace minerals. You will want to apply this mid April, May, June and July.
Training Your Muscadine
Pruning grape vines is a necessary chore. The preferred way to train a muscadine is a single stem up and 1 lateral main branch out to each side. This grape vine puts out so many leaves that any more lateral branches get shaded out and don’t produce very well. In order to keep vines producing healthy crops of fruit year after year, the vines must be pruned late winter/early spring. Later in the spring the further north you are. A properly pruned vine will allow for air, sunshine and pollinating insects to get to all parts, resulting in larger, sweeter berries. Old wood does not produce fruit.
Don’t forget to summer prune. What is this? In summer you go over your young vines and remove all unnecessary growth, runners and shoots. This will allow the vine to put all its energy into the vine and fruit that you want to grow. Remember to remove tendrils that have wrapped around your vine. They can girdle the vine and cause it to stop growing.
Muscadine grapes will turn from green to their end color as they ripen, but the surefire test is to pop one in your mouth. When they are bursting with sweet juicy goodness, they are ready to be picked. A good, mature vine can produce around 135 pounds of fruit per vine.
What Are Muscadine Grapes Good For?
The same as any other grape, juice, jelly, wine and fresh eating. And oh what good eating it is too! And from your own garden!
Health Benefits Of Muscadines
Muscadine grapes are significantly more nutritious than the average table grape. They are high in antioxidants, Vitamin C and E, rich in fiber and water and also known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Beautify Your Garden
Growing muscadine grapes is a rewarding endeavor. Besides being wonderful food, a properly trained grape vines can add a dramatic beauty to your edible landscape. And with minimal effort, will be adding beauty for years to come.
Are you considering adding grapes to your garden?
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Check out these other southern fruit for your edible landscape. Mulberry, Barbados Cherry, Mango, Carambola, Papaya or Pineapple.
And Have a Ducky Day!