In addition to the attachment, below are two articles on growing Grapes by Zahrah Nasir.
Grapevines made simple
by Zahrah Nasir
August 4, 2005
Believe it or not, growing grapevines is rather an uncomplicated process once you get down to the nitty-gritty of the task.
Long viewed as being ‘difficult’ and temperamental, grapevines are neither of these things but, they do benefit from lots of tender loving care combined with generous doses of patience, rather than fertilizer as too much feeding results in more growth than fruit.
Grapevines will grow quite happily in most types of soil as long as it is not waterlogged. They also perform well in large plant pots provided that, during the growth period and fruit season, the soil is not allowed to dry out completely even for a brief period of time, as this adversely affects cropping capability and the standard of ripened fruit.
Different varieties of grapevines sometimes require different climates so it is best to purchase your initial plants from a local supplier whose grapes have proven to do well in your area. Alternatively, if you know someone who is already growing grapevines successfully, then you can politely request a few cuttings from their existing plants.
Grapevines are best planted during their dormant period in the winter. This timing may vary depending on where you live. Generally speaking, December and January tend to be the best months. It is simple to tell if the vines are dormant as, this being the case, they will have shed their leaves in a blaze of autumnal colour and new leaf buds will not yet be visible. They will, in fact, resemble bare pieces of stick attached to healthy root-stock.
If the root-stock, upon close inspection -– which I highly recommend –– is also dried up then don’t make the mistake of purchasing them as they may very well be completely dead.
Once you have taken your healthy root-stock home then select a breezy, sunny spot in your garden in which to plant them.
Now, here is where people tend to become convinced that grapes are difficult, but it is all down to plain common sense or to the writings of a Spanish agriculturalist, who passed away in the year 60 AD and whose work on this subject is now viewed as being ‘progressive’ even by modern standards. The gentleman’s name was Columella and I wish he was still around to speak to in person, as his writing is absolutely fascinating!
According to Columella, the hotter the climate and the lower the altitude, then your grapevines should be allowed to grow tall. In Karachi, for example, you can let your grapes run riot over a porch, up a tree, along a wall or over a specially constructed grape arbour.
By doing this, your vines will provide adequate shade for their roots, required during the hottest times of the year and the leaves will protect the fruit from getting scorched. All you need to do is not, I repeat, not let them fruit for the first four years, which is where patience comes into play. If you allow them to fruit prematurely then this badly affects the vigour of your vines and reduces the quality of fruit.
Any flowers that form should, until the first four years are up, be snipped off with a sharp pair of secatures. Your vines need to be in a location where they will get the full benefit of maximum air circulation during the humid summer months, as this helps to prevent mildew on both leaves and the fruit.
On the other hand, the higher the altitude and the cooler the climate, the shorter your grapevines should be allowed to grow, which is why, when one sees attractive photographs of commercial vineyards, often well above sea level, the grapevines are kept in neat, orderly rows and not left to run riot all by themselves.
By the way, if you want first class fruit, it is also important to restrict the number of grape bunches per vine. Leaving one bunch for every two feet of vine is more than enough for the vine to support.
Thinning the number of bunches, particularly in a good year, feels like murder, yet it should be done. Plus, if you live in a particularly humid locality, it can also help to thin out the fruit of individual bunches to a point, where no grape touches its neighbour. This helps to avoid mildew.
However, if all appears to be going well with your ripening grapes, then try forgetting just how mouthwatering a huge bunch of grapes looks and simply pick them, grape by grape, as they ripen. Grapes do not ripen all at once and, by doing this, you actually end up with fresh grapes over a longer period of time.
Here in Bhurban, at an altitude of approximately 5,800 feet, I keep my vines to between three and four feet tall and they are finally, after some trial and error (and until I discovered Columella), doing very well indeed. This means that my vines are pruned back at the onset of winter, though not too hard. Winter frost can prune them further, with a second pruning just as they begin to think of waking up as the snows finally melt.
It can be difficult to over-prune grapes as long as you keep in mind that they fruit best on last year’s woody growth and that you must not prune the woody parts once they have woken up, as they can then ‘bleed’ to death.
Summer pruning is also essential up here and this is performed every ten days to two weeks. The new, sappy growth, which shoots up at a tremendous rate, needs to be kept cut back to the required height. When bunches of luscious grapes begin to ripen, then all leaves need to be cut away from them to fully expose the fruit to any sunshine available –– which isn’t much during the summer monsoon, when the fruit is attempting to turn colour!
The summer pruning also assists in keeping mildew at bay but it does have a major drawback -– it reveals delicious grapes to every bird for miles around and they rapidly home in!
Actually, wherever you live, it is always best to spread a net over the ripening grapes, either in individual bunches or to cover the entire plant.
Growing new grapevines from cuttings is also a simple matter. When you prune existing vines you can stick the cuttings, selected from strong, healthy shoots, about six to ten inches long, into plant pots of prepared soil or directly into the ground. Make sure you have them the right way up please!
You may like to use a rooting powder to help things along. Keep them watered and bide your time but, do not transplant them until they are very well established or you could lose the lot.
In areas where winters are very cold and frosty, then the grape cuttings should be completely buried, about one foot deep in the soil, for winter protection, then dug up and planted out in the spring.
So, there we have it. Grapevines made simple and, do remember, the leaves and young shoots are also perfectly edible.
by Zahrah Nasir
16 Dec, 2012
As promised recently, this time around we will take a look at cultivating grape vines which, despite much adverse publicity, are really very simple to grow indeed and this, plus the next couple of months, is the ideal time to make a start.
First and foremost, grapes can be cultivated absolutely everywhere in Pakistan but, as a result of localised climatic and soil conditions, will be more productive in some areas than in others but they are, if used to their full potential, still worth growing.
In cultivation since ancient times, grape vines thrive in most soil conditions as long as the roots are never allowed to become waterlogged: Stony soil, sandy soil, even clay soil as long as drainage is good, are all ideal for viticulture as grape vine cultivation is correctly known. The most common cultivation error is that of over feeding as the vines require very little nourishment otherwise they will grow like crazy, producing new shoots which are very long and leafy but may not set actual grapes as all the strength may have been used up in rapid growing.
Grape vines are suitable for growing directly in the ground or in large pots and other deep containers. Planting holes should be prepared at least two weeks in advance of putting in newly purchased vines or ‘homemade’ rooted cuttings. Select a location in full sun, or place pots/containers where they get maximum sunshine, and dig a hole 12-18 inches deep and approximately 12 inches wide. Place a handful of rusty iron (not stainless steel) nails in the base of the planting hole for a long term supply of iron and add a totally clean beef knuckle bone which will provide necessary calcium and other trace elements over an extended period of time. Do not add manure although you can mix the excavated soil with some organic compost, a ratio of 70 per cent soil to 30 per cent compost is ideal, to be used when planting the vine/s.
If you have purchased bare rooted vines, giving them an overnight soak in a bucket of water prior to planting is a good idea. If they are pot grown this is not usually necessary. Take great care to untangle and spread out the fragile roots when planting the vines, handle-with-care being of extreme importance, and add soil a little at a time, watering it down rather than stamping on it, until the hole is full to the brim and then water again — topping up with more soil may be necessary once everything has settled into place.
Whoops! Almost forgot this: Before you plant out any vines, please ensure that they have something to climb up. This could be an adjacent wall with wires or netting in place, an arrangement of stakes and wires, a full-fledged grape arbour, trellis or even a convenient tree. The climbing ‘frame’ must be in place before planting any vines as to do this afterwards is liable to result in damage to their roots.
Grape vines grow extremely fast and should, especially for the first four years, be kept under control and not, I repeat not, be allowed to bear fruit until they are four or five years old. Before this time any blossom should be snipped off, not broken, with a pair of sharp secateurs. Allowing vines to fruit before they are fully mature results in poor quality grapes and the vines are unlikely ever to produce good quality fruit.
Pruning back of ‘runaway’ new shoots is an on-going process but only prune back new, green sappy growth not established wood, otherwise the vine will bleed to death. When pruning new shoots only take off approximately 30 per cent at a time and repeat this each and every month throughout the growing season if you possibly can. Once vines are mature and ready to bear fruit, ‘summer pruning’ as it is called, should be carried out every six to eight weeks. The all important winter pruning, December/January is ideal, is done just once and the vines pruned back very hard indeed. This winter pruning, the vines’ fruit on the previous year’s growth, is most successful when all stems are pruned back to just three buds and no more.
The biggest problem faced by grape growers in Pakistan are the humid conditions endured in most parts of the country at the crucial period when the grapes are ripening. This humidity causes mildew which is difficult to avoid. Keeping the vines reasonably clear of growth and leaves in their central area assists air circulation and does delay or reduce the onset of mildew as does spraying the vines with bicarbonate of sodium solution on a regular basis when humidity is high.
The grapes you cultivate may or may not be of top quality but, be they white, green, red or purple, they will certainly be of some culinary use. Even if they aren’t, please do make full use of young vine leaves in salads, as a spinach substitute or as dolmas and use the young, leafless tendrils as a vegetable too. If you decide to grow grape vines for leaf and tendril production rather than actual grapes then no pruning is necessary.