CONFESSIONS OF A SLACKER GARDENER:
I don’t deserve this bounty. I did nothing. No weeding, no fertilizing, no pruning, no trellising, no watering (and I live in a drought state!) Hardly even a thought about the grapevine in the corner of my yard, except maybe an occasional “Oh I really should do something about that.”
Yet I’m blessed with the fruits of my non-labor anyway. The grapes are just starting to ripen. It’s the time of year when my kids disappear all day beneath the vine’s generous foliage, in a delicious game of hide-and-snack.
Our grape vine produces sweet, seedless wonders. I wish you could pluck one off the screen and taste it. These grapes might be good for making juice, I don’t know, we eat them all too fast and I’m spared the work. Maybe I’m lazy that way, too.
To be fair, I really don’t intend to be so indolent as far as the grapevine is concerned. Each spring I say THIS is going to be the year I build a trellis. (I have a great vision for a combination swing set/grape arbor, but that’s all it is: an airy plan jumping around in my head.) Other gardening tasks always take precedence and before you know it I’ve enabled this plant’s rambling wildness yet another season.
There are lots to learn about grapes. If my vine has shown me anything, though, it’s that if a grape variety is a good match for your climate and conditions, it can almost fly solo. Thus grapes can easily be great additions to your backyard farm. Sure, I know I can attain better yield with proper pruning and trellising, and I’m looking forward to gaining such knowledge – when time away from other more pressing chores permits. Thank goodness the grapevine is so forgiving. Give it light and it will produce.
Because I inherited the grapes when we bought our house, I lucked out in not even having to select which variety to plant in my yard. If you are considering adding grapes to your landscape I encourage you to contact your local extension service. (Generally, you can do an online search with the word extension and your state’s name.) The experts there can help you know which varieties are best suited for your area based on soil, temperature, humidity, length of growing season, etc. Keep in mind too your reason for growing grapes: table eating or beverages.
So do your homework this summer. Take walks around your neighborhood, looking for flourishing grapevines. Ask neighbors for tips. Make new friends. I know I’ll be staking out folks with beautifully trained vines and ask them to teach me a bit.
One lesson I do know, and which I retaught my children today, is how to tell a ripe grape from a sour one. Try this out at the supermarket. Other than tasting, there is a visual trick. No matter the color of the variety, ripe grapes become translucent.
Note the grapes nearest my daughter’s hand, which are much clearer than the cloudy ones above them. The bottom ones are ripe, the top ones will be in a few days. My children will synchronize their harvests, I guarantee it.