Good time to start growing grapes in Utah

Published: Thursday, April 2 2009 12:16 a.m. MDT

A few weeks ago, I devoted this column to the topic of pruning grapes. If you are not yet growing the fruit of the vine, this might be a good time to start.Providing you select the right kinds, grapes are a tasty addition to your backyard food production.Few plants have been cultivated as long as grapes. In our area, they are reasonably pest free, so they don't need extensive and expensive sprays.They are drought tolerant and require little — if any — supplemental fertilizer.Additionally, grapes are capable of producing a full crop by their third year, and they fit in well in many landscape situations because they are fast growing and ornamental.They also allow growers to produce food vertically — against a fence or a building or in other places where most fruit would not grow easily.Grapes are grown on more than 20 million acres worldwide, and there are more than 60 species.In northern Utah we are concerned about two of those species and the hybrids between the two.European grapes (Vitis vinifera) are the Old World species. These include many wine and table grapes. These have an exocarp — or skin — that adheres to the flesh when you eat them.Most of these are semi-hardy in northern Utah. The vines often die back and that kills the fruiting wood, so they do not produce reliable crops.Popular varieties include the desert types such as Thompson Seedless, Black Corinth, Black Monuka, Tokay, Flame, in addition to the many wine grape varieties.American grapes (Vitis labrusca) are species that are native to the Americas.These grapes have an exocarp — or skin — that separates from the flesh. These types of grapes are often referred to as slip-skin grapes.Popular varieties include Concord, Catawba, Delaware and Niagara.These are often seeded and are usually used for juice, jam or jelly.Because these are not the best for fresh eating, we often grow cold-hardy European/American hybrids that are crosses between V. vinifera and V. labrusca species.Most of these have few seeds (or very undeveloped seeds), and with most varieties the skin adheres tightly to the flesh of the fruit.Popular varieties include Himrod, Interlaken, Canadice, Lakemont and several others.Whenever I write about growing grapes and which varieties are recommended for northern Utah, I usually get a call or e-mail that the person is growing one or more of the longer season, European-type grapes.It is important to remember that the length of growing season and the effect of the microclimates allow some longer-season grapes to grow here.In general, American type grapes and the European/American hybrids need 150-160 frost-free days to produce the best crop.If you have 170-180 days with no frost, you can produce some of the earlier, more cold-hardy European and European/American hybrids.Most European grape varieties do best with 200 frost-free days, meaning they do well in St. George but not in Logan.Parts of Alpine, for example, have an average frost-free season of 140 days, while some areas of Orem have a frost-free season of 185 days.Most nurseries now have their grape stock in, so buy and plant your vines as soon as possible.Look for top-grade, No. 1 plants. You can get bare root or packaged plants cheaper, but vines in containers can be planted throughout the season. And remember, all common varieties don't require pollination.


Larry A. Sagers is a horticulture specialist for the Utah State University Extension Service at Thanksgiving Point.Grape variety recommendationsAmerican-type juice grapesBlue-blackConcord: Most popular juice and jelly standard of qualityBuffalo: Earlier than Concord juice, must age for best flavorFredonia: Later than Buffalo, ahead of Concord; same usesWhiteCanada Muscat: Mild foxy flavor; early ripeningNiagara (mistakenly called White Concord): Good flavorEuropean/American hybrid table grapesRedReliance: Large clusters of red, medium-size berries; cold hardySuffolk Red: Large grape with excellent flavor; clusters shatterCandice: High-quality large clustersWhite (makes good raisins)Interlaken: Very early; premature berry dropHimrod: Early with loose clustersLakemont: Later than Himrod; large clustersBlackVenus: Large early excellent qualityGlenora: Vine is somewhat tenderAlden: Reddish-blue, large seeded grape

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