A warm-climate loving variety, Muscadine Grapes are essential for the southern garden. Not only are they easy to grow, but they also produce prolifically. If you’ve been dreaming of making lots of jam, jelly, or wine, muscadines are for you. This blog will teach you how to grow muscadine grapes.
Muscadine grapes are an adaptation of a native southeastern United States grapevine. The vines fruit in late summer, filling the air with their sweet aroma. They are thick-skinned, seeded, and available in black, pink, purple, bronze, red, and green varieties. Muscadine vines are gregarious and long-lived. These bunch grapes need warm-weather and humid climates; temperatures below zero will kill the vines. Muscadine vines live a long time if planted and cared for properly. There are vines 200+ years old that still produce every year. Planting a muscadine vine is planting for you and many future generations! Learn how to grow muscadine grapes in your backyard!
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The majority of Muscadines need another cultivar type with which to cross-pollinate. Some cultivars are self-pollinating, or self-fruiting. Make sure you know which one you are getting. If you choose one that needs cross-pollination, all you need is to pick a different muscadine cultivar to plant with it. Self-fruiting varieties are excellent for smaller spaces where there isn’t room to plant two vines.
Muscadines are mostly seeded, with only a few new varieties offering seedless grapes. They are available in early-season, mid-season, and late-season varieties. Planting two young vines of each will give you grapes all season long!
Perfect Plants offer 2 varieties of muscadine grapes that are both self fertile and prolific bloomers. The Noble Muscadine Grape can grow up to 15-20 feet long on just one plant and is cold hardy down to USDA zone 7. Southern Jewel Muscadine Grapevine is a smaller cultivar perfect for home gardeners. This fruiting vine only grows up to 8-12 feet long and 6-8 feet wide, meaning it can also be planted in a container as long as the vine has enough support. Both produce medium sized grapes with high yields.
Both of those grape varieties are deciduous meaning they lose their leaves in the fall or winter for a dormant season. Before the leaves drop, beautiful fall color will take over the plant to enhance your garden or landscape. These plants are rooted in their nursery containers in soil. They are not shipped bare root. Why go to the garden center when you can have your new grape vines shipped directly to your house.
Where to Plant Muscadine Grapes
Muscadine grapes require six to eight hours of full sun per day. They also need an area with well drained soil. The roots will become diseased if allowed to sit in wet soil too long. The ideal soil pH is between 6-7.
Establish the trellis before planting the vines so as not to disturb the roots once planted. The vines are heavy, and the root systems are shallow, requiring they receive special care and consideration. Situate the trellis posts securely in the ground, so that they can bear a heavyweight.
Muscadine vines grow up to 3 feet per year and live for 200+ years. Even with regular, thorough pruning, they become quite robust and have high vine vigor. The trellis design needs to be as long-lasting as the vines themselves.
Trellis-making is as simple or complicated as you make it. Any fence system currently on your property is likely to work sufficiently as a trellis. An arbor or pergola is ideal. A chain-link fence also works as a trellis. It is difficult to prune vines around chain-link; however, it will work. Alternately, building a trellis is an option. Single-wire trellises are preferred for growing these grapes. They take a little work to set-up, but the payoff is worth it. Wire Grape Trellis Construction.
A primary consideration is that the vines have enough room to spread out and breathe. Plan on one vine per 20 feet of fence. If they are planted any closer, the vines will intertwine into a giant mess.
How to Plant Muscadine Grape Vines
The best time to plant muscadine vines is in the early to mid spring. Dig a large hole alongside the trellis deep enough to hold and secure the roots. Place the vines near the posts for added support while they grow. Arrange the roots, so the root ball plus 1-inch of the vine is in the hole. Fan the roots out to stabilize the plant and encourage establishment.
Fill the hole 3/4 with soil and then water thoroughly. This settles the soil and helps secure the vine. Fill the remainder of the hole with soil and water it again.
Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the vine around the soil line. This assists in moisture retention and keeps the cold away.
Muscadine Grape Vine Care
Train the vine on the trellis. The most common method is to stretch one lateral branch out on each side. The muscadine grapevine produces copious amounts of leaves, causing other lateral branches to get overshaded.
Muscadine grape vines require regular watering until they get established. During fruit production, especially, they benefit from irrigation or deep, thorough watering.
Once matured, they are resistant to dry spells. Rainfall is generally enough to keep them alive and thriving.
Keep the area around the vines well-weeded to prevent suffocation or the proliferation of diseases. Several inches of straw or woodchip mulch will aid in weed prevention and keep the soil’s moisture.
How to Fertilize Muscadine Grapes
A 10-10-10 application in the spring, when the vines are just waking up, is best. Two more applications throughout the growing season are sufficient. Do not add any fertilizer in the late fall or winter when the vines are entering dormancy.
How to Prune Muscadine Vines
In late winter or early spring, prune to remove any old dead branches and leaves. Old branches don’t produce fruit. Prune to allow for sunshine, airflow, and pollinating insects to get to all parts of the vine. Don’t be afraid of pruning! Remove 90% of the previous year’s growth. Grapevines are forgiving and hardy; if you prune too much or too little, it can be fixed the following year.
The first few years, prune aggressively, only allowing the sturdiest canes to stay. Each year, repeat this, so the most vigorous canes have plenty of space and light to thrive. As it gets established, train the sturdy vines to stretch out along the trellis.
In the summer, do a light pruning to remove excess side shoots and runners. The new shoots require lots of energy, which takes it away from where you want it, growing grapes! Remove any tendrils that have wrapped themselves around the vine as this can girdle it if left.
Check out this pruning guide from Washington State University for more details.
Muscadine Grapes Harvest Time
The best test is a taste test! Is the grape sweet and juicy? If so, it’s ready to be harvested. A mature, healthy vine produces up to 125 lbs of fruit.
Muscadine grapes ripen individually, not in bunches. Ripe grapes release easily and don’t need pulling or yanking. Enjoy!
Muscadine grapes do not have many pests and diseases. And if they do contract any, they should be easy enough to fix. Contact your local extension agent if you cannot get the problem under control. Many varieties have high disease resistance.
Yellowing leaves are generally caused by downy mildew or powdery mildew. Downy mildew attacks the veins, leaving black angular spots. Powdery mildew causes round black spots all over the leaves. If left untreated, both mildew types will kill the vine. Treat both these mildews with a fungicide.
Growing muscadine grapes is easy, fun, and rewarding when you get to pick your fresh grapes right off the vine. They are perfect additions to your backyard orchard and if done correctly, will yield a bounty of delicious fruit! You will be able to make wines, juice, and jelly in no time.
What kinds of grapes are you growing? What type of support system do you use for the vines? A trellis? Fence? Arbor? Let us know in the comments below.