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Tips for picking plants and starting a vineyard

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The easiest time to plant grapes is in the spring, although if you can find the plants right now, you can still plant container stock. Now is the time to find out the kinds you like.

Stop at a local fruit stand to pick up some of the more common varieties. Do not get too carried away with too many table grapes because the vines are productive and eating several bushels of grapes when they start to ripen is somewhat difficult. Spence Mortensen offers this advice:"The person who got me started told me that I would end up taking out many of the table grapes and replacing them with Concords. I have reached that point because they do so well and we love the juice and jelly."

Grapes are usually divided into three different types according to their growth habits and origins:

American grapes have slip skins and are very hardy. They are resistant to common diseases and are easy to grow. They are also very susceptible to iron chlorosis. They are primarily juice grapes.

European grapes do not have slip skins and are primarily used for fresh eating. They are susceptible to mildew and are not reliably hardy in our area.

Hybrids between the two types are some of the best eating varieties for our area.

Mortensen grows the following varieties in his vineyard.

Blue-black or purple juice grapes include Concord, Buffalo and Fredonia. The Concord grape is more than 200 years old and is still the most popular juice and jelly grape. Fredonia is much like Concord. Buffalo looks much like the Concord grape, but the juice is not nearly as tasty.

White grape juice is becoming more and more popular. The best variety is Niagara. Niagara is sometimes erroneously referred to as Western Concord, but it is a distinct variety. Canada Muscat ripens early and has a mild foxy flavor and also is a good juice grape if you like the flavor.

Table grape varieties are divided by color. Red grapes include Suffolk Red and Canadice. Both are seedless and produce well most years. They are generally hardy but may be damaged if the winters are extremely cold.

Green grapes include Interlaken, which ripens the earliest so the crop is gone for the year. Himrod is another good seedless green with aggressive vines. Lakemont produces the nicest clusters.

Black grapes include Venus and Glenora. These are both seedless and are reliably hardy except

when we have extremely cold winters.