No question about it! Seems more and more home fruit growers in this great country of ours are attracted to trying their hand at grapes and to which I say: More power to you! We may actually benefit from so-called global warming, too. Some wine and table grape varieties are now being introduced that would never have survived our Canadian winters at one time. In many instances, both amateur and professional viticulturists are planting different and even more tender grape varieties capable of adapting to and withstanding our changing climate. After all, a grape grower’s ultimate goal is to have healthy, hardy vines and a constant harvest.
LOTS OF REASONS TO LOVE GRAPES
…and there are so many ways to serve them, from fresh in hand to homemade juice, jelly and wine. Another reason to grow grapes? Cutting edge research suggests that several natural substances found in grapes contain anti-inflammatory properties that appear to reduce arthritis pain and inflammation. Consuming flavonoids through fresh fruit such as grapes, cherries, saskatoons and blueberries may also be beneficial in reducing the amount of medication necessary to alleviate discomfort.
Of course, I’m no doctor, but I do find more and more people are trying to prevent and treat a lot of bodily ills in a more natural way.
INTRODUCING VOLOACA NURSERY
Voloaca Nursery is a grape vine and conifer sapling nursery near our national capital. The small family-run operation specializes in cold hardy grape vines, originally developed by the private breeding efforts of the late Elmer Swenson. It also sells grape varieties from the Technology Production Program in Horticulture and Environment at Institut de Technologie Agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec and from other sources.
Bare root grape vines are grown from dormant hardwood cuttings, at least two nodes long, rooted and grown in Voloaca’s outdoor nursery. Cuttings are collected during the winter/early spring from healthy, vigorous, mature vines, at vineyards in Aylmer and Montebello, north of the Ottawa River, in Québec.
Constantin and Maria Voloaca
manage the nursery. Both have horticultural degrees, and Constantin has extensive experience and knowledge in viticulture. He was born and raised in one of the most important grape and wine production regions in Romania, helping his parents and grandparents and performing many specific duties in grape production.
During his studies in a viticulture-specialized high school, and then in a horticulture program at university, Constantin gained more experience and knowledge in propagation, planting, dormant and “green” pruning, training and pest management.
After graduating with highest honours, he was manager for seven years at a Romanian vineyard almost 250 acres in size. Constantin described it as a lot of work, a lot of personnel, a lot of machinery, a lot of problems and a lot of decisions to make, but a lot of satisfaction, too. His knowledge and experience in viticulture were really tested, but as he said: “I learned a lot out of it all.”
Although winters in Romania are less harsh compared with eastern Ontario and western Quebec, Constantin still had to deal with frost damage and monitor adjustments to ensure fertile buds. Added to that were winter protection and cultural methods to increase the frost resistance of wine grapes.
Now he’s even more familiar with grape production in colder climates and endeavours to utilize all his experience and knowledge toward
Get your names in. I’ll be making the draws in early March. Prizes range from grape plants to seed potatoes and redeemable gift vouchers. But, as always, you can’t win, if you don’t enter. So send your name and address to me, as follows:
Ted the Singing Gardener DRAW, c/o Grainews,
1666 Dublin Ave.,
Winnipeg, MB R3H 0H1
Winners’ names will appear in a future Grainews column. Included among the draws are bundles of 11 different grape plants from Voloaca Nursery, or your choice of a mixture of eleven vines from their following list:
Red Varieties:Concord, Frontenac, Geneve Red, Lucy Kuhlman, Sabrevois and St. Croix. White Varieties: Kay Gray, Louise Swenson, Prairie Star, St. Pepin and Vandal Cliche. There is no print catalogue, but you can find descriptions of this list of grapes at www.voloacanursery.comor phone 819-685-0429.
Family member Misha Voloaca tells me he will send grape winners a paper sheet of tips. Readers are reminded that aforesaid grape vines are only hardy up to Zone 3. His dad thinks “some varieties could potentially survive in a Zone 2 region with proper care but might not produce any fruit.” On an optimistic note, Misha gave me his prediction that in 100 years “we will have grape vines that will thrive in Zone 1.”
Even if you’re in an area considered too cold for grape production now, you may still want to try. By providing a micro-climate environment or similar shelter site, chances exist for a good measure of some success. After all, many gardeners are like eager-beaver frontiersmen, ready, willing and able to adapt to challenges and our ever-changing climate.
STORE-BOUGHT WHITE GRAPES
Have you ever noticed that white (a. k. a. green) grapes sometimes have pale brown stripes, dots or blotches? These spots are often referred to as sugar stains. It’s a known fact that some, but not all, white varieties are more susceptible or sensitive to sunburn than blue, black or purple grapes. Rather than a genetic thing, it’s more often due to sunburn damage and can happen when clusters hang in direct sunlight too long at the wrong time. Grape growers need to be aware of this potential for discolouration and take appropriate steps.
The sun does wonders for colouring and ripening grapes, but grapes need sun at exactly the right time. If you have a constructed overhead canopy or an abundance of foliage covering clusters on the trellis, you will need to open up the vines to direct sunlight. But wait until your grapes begin to turn colour. That’s when the sugar content within the berries increases and acid levels start to drop. During this stage, grapes become less susceptible to sunburn, but not totally, so may still require some protection. At this point in the season, open up or partially unveil the canopy. This is done by pulling off some leaves and pruning any overlapping shoots covering grape clusters, allowing
MAKE A HULA HOOP
…from grape vines. How many of you remember those plastic hula hoops that created a worldwide sensation back in the 1950s? Over six million of them were sold in the first six months of production. Well now they’re coming back as a must-have exercise and fitness tool to help us shed pounds and strengthen the body.
Today’s practitioners have transformed hooping into everything from a low impact workout, aerobic dancing, and a pathway to fitness and health — even calling it the new yoga because of its holistic value.
When I was a kid we made our own fun, mostly with home crafted toys. That’s probably no surprise to those of my generation. But get this! The original hula hoop is a centuries-old toy fashioned from dried grape vines in ancient Egypt. Such hoops and grape vine wreaths were often hung on posts and depicted on vases in fifth century Athens.
So save those long sections of pruned-off grape vines and try making them into hula hoops. An entrepreneur could even start up a cottage industry in conjunction with the owner of a grape vineyard or nursery as a source of material.
What I’ve told you is only skimming the surface. There is so much, much more to learn. Class is closed for today in the school of grape growing.
Ted Meseyton is the Singing Gardener & Grow-it Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. He talks and sings gardening at his personal appearances. Ted also teaches yodeling and musical grow-your-own-garden classes to children and adults. His e-mail address is: [email protected]