It’s always been a dream of mine to have a nice little homestead, utilizing all of the space available to me on my property. I like hard work; it makes me proud to see what I can do with my own two hands, some gardening tools, and the occasional power tool. That being said, a lot of what I want to do starts out as a goal I optimistically hope to reach in one short growing season. But, Mother Nature always has a way of putting me in my place (she’s teaching me patience, really. Right?) One of the things I’ve always wanted to grow is grapes. My mother tried numerous times to start grapevines on our property, without success. But, because I’m headstrong, I stubbornly believed that with a little research and hard work, I could pull it off.
In the five, non-grape-harvesting years I’ve been working at it, I’ve learned a thing or two. So, here is a list of five things I have found that just don’t work for my dear friend the grapevine.
1.) Swampy soil. Our dirt is full of clay. It sucks when you have the dream of creating a homestead full of veggies, fruits, and herbs (and wine?) to sustain your family. I’ve known about the problem all my life, but I didn’t think much about it at first. Remembering my mother’s bad luck, I did a little research and found that grapes do better in well-drained soil. Well, poo. One thing clay is not good at is draining. After a little digging, I found a good spot along our fence where the yard slopes nicely, added some compost, potting soil, and gravel, and planted my vines. Score one: they didn’t die.
2.) Frost. Apparently, in early spring, when the bright green plumage appears and the leaves are nice and big and ready to begin the growing cycle, one – yes one – little late frost turns the leaves brown and soggy. Some people I talked to said they cover theirs, but for heaven’s sake, with what? I haven’t gotten around to building a trellis or an arbor, so my little vines climb about 5 feet off the ground and stretch about 7 feet in either direction on the fence. Not sure what I should cover them with that wouldn’t hurt the new leaves, but I may have to look into it because they sure don’t like the cold. Still, somehow they keep coming back.
3.) Chemicals. Ok, I’m not a fan of using pesticides or anything like that. Growing up, we never used them, and probably a good thing, too, because when my friends and I were out playing, we had no time for snack breaks. It was a quick trip to the garden for a tomato, some snap peas, or a bell pepper and then off we skeedaddled with a salt shaker in our pockets before we got caught. It was probably pretty risky to do that in the neighbors’ gardens, but we just didn’t have to worry about things like that back then.
Of course, when the bugs started arriving on my sweet little baby leaves, I panicked and ran out for a container of the dust. I read the label, had second and third thoughts about it, and then applied it anyway, in the hopes it would get rid of the nasty six-legged buggers. Long story short, the bugs went away, but the dust fried the leaves.
4.) Japanese beetles. I hate these bugs more than words can convey, but let me try. These stinky, invasive, buzzing insects show up, not one or two at a time, but in droves and OBLITERATE grape leaves (as well as several other plants on the property like rose bushes, peach trees, sassafras, and rose of Sharon). And not only do they show up and voraciously devour what’s not theirs, they mate while they do it. It’s as if hundreds of free-loading houseguests are giving me a literal F*&! You while I watch my imagined jelly stores disappear before my eyes. And the traps? Don’t work. Maybe I’m just not placing them in the right places. Who knows? But, it is a never-ending battle that I plan on preparing for – somehow – early next year.
5.) Deer. Grapes hate deer. Apparently, deer love grapes. It’s a terrible unrequited love. See, I didn’t know this. For a few years, this one grapevine that my mother planted years ago has been taking over a corner of her flower bed (They’re pretty resilient, obviously. We thought it was a wild grapevine for a long time.), and every year, they start out with bunches and bunches of little green grapes. Then, suddenly, almost overnight, they’ve been disappearing. On an episode of American Housewife (which is amazing, by the way, check it out), the youngest child mentions that deer like grapes. A short Google search later confirmed it. And now the mystery of why all of our grapes have been disappearing has been solved. Just great.
I’m still optimistic that one day I’ll be sipping a super sweet homemade wine on my porch while my kids dine on grape jelly sandwiches and fresh grape juice (Who am I kidding? That much sugar would either guarantee hyperactive meltdowns or a sugar coma.). At least I’ve been able to take away from these situations and learn from my mistakes. Thank goodness the grapevines have been hearty and resilient enough to stick with me. I’m sure in a few years I’ll have even more things to add to this list. For now, it looks like Mother Nature is teaching them patience as well.
Just getting started with gardening? Don’t make this mistake!