The Scarboro Garden Scene – Growing Grape Vines

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Larch Hills Vineyard
Larch Hills Vineyard
Larch Hills Vineyard
Valiant Grapes
The Scarboro Garden Scene

Growing Grape Vines
A cross-country ski trip to the Larch Hills, near Salmon Arm, included a visit to what might be the highest and most northerly vineyard in B.C. The grapes there include species and varieties that thrive in the sweet white wine areas of Germany, some of which were new to me, such as the Ortega, derived from Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe grapes in the 1980’s. Key to their growth in B.C. is exposure to the sun on south facing slopes, and natural water supply rather than irrigation. Irrigation tends to encourage shallow rooting because the water is readily available in the top 10cm of the soil. Another important factor in their health is the thick, insulating snow cover.
How does that help us in Calgary? – If we want to grow grapes, we need to have good snow cover and lots of summer sun hours – and the selection of the hardiest of grapes. More critical is the acceptance that these grapes will probably be best for making jelly or juice, rather than a wine.
The Manitoba (or Riverbank) grape variety, Vitis riparia ‘Valiant’ may grow 3 metres high, and produce small bluish-purple grapes alongside three-lobed leaves. Ideally it should be able to use its tendrils to climb up a trellis or arbour, but the support should not interfere with access to sunlight or air flow. While the native vine needs a male and female plant in close proximity, the ‘Valiant’ hybrid (and the less hardy ‘Beta’ hybrid) is monoecious, so only one vine is required to bear fruit. Good quality soil is important, and mulching should be done annually, as should the March pruning.
Leaf hoppers can be annoying (as you may know from on Virginia Creeper), but not disastrous: for more information, see June Flanagan’s book on Edible Plants for Prairie Gardens.
  • Glynn Wright
    1. 300 words

    February 19, 2014March issue