Editor’s note: This blog comes from an email discussion about muscadines, a native form of grapes. kh
Growing Muscadines in Beauregard Parish
by Jimmy Earl Cooley and Skip Cryer, Master Gardeners
Ripe Muscadine Grapes, NCSU image
>The two muscadine grape vines that you gave me and we planted to the rightof the house, looking toward the pond, I named SKIPPER 1 and SKIPPER 2. #1, I moved to the runway about this time, last year, and it
produced about half gal of nice grapes. #2 did not produce any and never
has to date. #1 was moved using the tractor front end loader, with no
particular attention to care of roots and left maybe three feet of the four
leaders attached. I had previously dug the hole, on runway, to accept #1,
with no particular attention or addition of anything to hole. I noted
that there were a fair amount of roots, near main stem (vertical) and out
approx 2 to 2.5 feet out from leader with very few large diameter roots.
I estimate that, with the front end loader, I got about 75 % of roots with
trensfer of #1 vine. So expect it to do better this year and can only
conclude that lack of full sun and proximity to other trees and vegetation
prevented production of grapes at original location. Now #1 vine was one
that was further from the surrounging treesand #2 is closer to trees,
especially a rather large pine tree.
>So, two weeks ago I moved #2 vine, using same procudure as #1, from
near house to runway, except this time I pulled the 4 horizonal off rebar
trelace and rolled up and tied to central stem, planning to unroll and secure
to new rebar trelace on runway. When vine and roots were in front loader,
so I could examine roots, I was surprised to see that several large roots had
not broken or pulled up but were holding on to root ball and these roots were
not where the most sun hit but under ground and toward the large pine tree
trunk, two long roots were large as my index finger and thumb and some 12 feet long, probably even longer as I cut off before finding end since it was tangled with pine tree roots. Thought this was strange cause expected largest and most vigrous root growth would be away from trees and toward open area with more sun. So roots liked shade and pine needle mulch and grew better in that environment and not so good in open area, but neither configuration produced enough roots to support vine anb make fruit?? The open area had mulch around stem for approx 3ft but only put it down in spring and was mostly gone now. I kept both vines watered during dry times in original location.
>Anything to learn.
>Mulch a good thing, shallow roots
>Muscadine in wild, roots covered good. filtered sun
>Can successfully move complete vine and expect it to survive using front
>It will be interesting to see results this year. Believe you gave me
the two vines 4 years ago, is that what tou remember? Comment please and
further recommendations appreciated.
SKIPPER GRAPE VINE #2/Reply by Skip Cryer
Well, we get into ideology, It is a long way from Ison to Cooley Hill. Even though geologically the areas are similar the soils have differing origins whaterver that would have to do with the subject. We are in the Mississippi basin and they are not. First, pine needles unmulched last a long time due to a very slow rot cycle and do not wash or blow away. Their purpose would not be to modify the soil but protect the emerging shallow root growth from grass and weed competition and to preserve moisture so that mandatory watering would not be necessary. We normally have an extended dry spell late spring or June. The amount of Miracle Gro that I mentioned would simply be enough to kick start feeder root growth. Just like any plant does better when planted if a starter liquid is used. Green manure or hot chicken manure I would not use anyway. Well rotted cloved hoof or horse manure would not bother me. Cottenseed meal is low nitrogen, slow release. Sawdust unless very well rotted is a no no. It robs the soil of its nitrogen. What pH muscadines thrive at is not something discussed much. They are basically native plants that do very well in pine forests, mixed pine and deciduous forests, sandy hills, and on slopes along streams. The pH of these soils in Louisana range naturally from 3.5-4.5, acidic. The ground is covered with pine needles and oak leaves.
I am no expert but am hardheaded about some things. After loss of much money and time trying to make plants grow where they are not comfortable I have yielded. I will be up front. I don’t understand a lot of recommendations written for gardening books and those from businesses selling side products. I tend to sort out what is sensible, works, and does not require me to spend lots of hours pampering. Absolutly noting done impacts every plant the same. Soils over even a relatively short distance are different in chemistry, grain size, moisture retention, etc. My vines are scattered over an area approximately 600 x 200 feet, hill top to borderline boggy. I treat them all the same. I repair trellises, prune and pick. I get differing growth from 2-3 feet to 12-15 without watering or fertilizer. I have never limed. The more growth I get the less berries I get. Fertilizer causes more growth. I have killed shrubs and trees with commercial fertilizer placement followed by dry weather–it turns toxic in a hurry. However your vines are young starters. You may get some quick vine growth to cover your trellises and quicker maturity. Mine have been planted for a long time and my interests are different.
I do believe that muscadines are one of those plants that has a tough constitution which allows them to grow in almost any condition other than snow and standing water, They do like sun and to have their roots left alone. They are happy with pruning but cannot tolerate herbicides.
If you want to follow Ison’s recommendations I don’t see that harm would follow. Ironically, I am into a new ‘research’ mode. I have two young vines, an Ison and a Black Beauty that I have planted in my pine trees. According to everything this is waiting failure. The only thing I plan to do is let them grow and if they do set a trellis for them. The only negative thing that may happen to them is dry weather before they establish a supporting root system. Two years ago I tried two in another evironment and dry weather got them. We got less than 40 inches of rain that year. Last year we got 72 inces according to the weather station. Interstingly I got a berry crop both years. Normal rainfall is about 50 inches.
I will give you my real thought on the subject. I think growing plants is like growing children. Pamper them with lots of attention, plenty of food and drink, protection, etc their growth and development becomes based on this environment. When it is time to cut them loose on their own they go into a level of shock. Watch your garden as the ground dries up and the commercial fertilizer begins to run out. Humans are obsessive about creating faux environments though I readily admit total austerity is not conducive to success in all cases but point made. Moderation in all things is mandatory. My yard trees and other plants are tough. When I go my family will not have to worry about pampering them to keep them from following.
Why do bare root trees outgrow trees planted from pots or do they?
Try it, they may like it.