Monday, May 18, 2009

BIO Hack #4 - Grape Vine Starts

Ok, after that last "Bio Hack" with the fish, we figured we better post a "less gross" update. The grape vines have popped leaves and tiny grape clusters all over, and so its time to cut some starts for new vines.

Oregon and Washington are ideal for grapes - that is if you have alot of sun. Here in Oregon we have perfect soil, and enough sun.

Small grape starts are a great gift for friends - they are fun, and they put out great fruit with little or no care required - just alot of sun! We produced 85 quarts of grapejuice off of 3 of our vines last year - we had to give all the grapes away from the other 2 vines. This year we have new grapes on 7 of our 14 vines! Whoa boy! At least they are easy to give away... and last year's grape pie turned out so good, we may not have any extra this fall (more on that in upcoming months).

Grape starts are easy - first, just find some new shoots that don't have grapes on them. Cut them off the vine about 3-5 inches long, and trim off all leaves except the one on the end, as shown on the clipping on the right.

After soaking the clipping for a while, shake off the excess water, and dip it into a root hormone - we use "Take Root". Shake off any excess, and push the clipping into potting soil deep enough to cover up all the hormone powder.

Now, just water and keep wet. We put old, clear plastic bags over the plants to keep it humid. Make sure the plastic doesn't touch the plant, and keep it out of direct sunlight.

It is pretty cheap just to buy new vines from craigslist, or the internet, but it is fun to hack-it-up yourself, too. These vines were a fancy variety from a friend and were expensive, so we've had fun doing it ourselves. We've tried this on clippings in the spring (May) and also in the fall (August and Sept). The fall clippings never worked - probably too late in the season for the roots to take. About 75% of the spring clippings work and are ready for planting in the ground next year, so make extras.

One year, we had some clippings that didn't seem to work, so we put them up on the shelf inside our shop and left them all winter long - no light, no water, no love! The next spring when we took the pots out and left them outside for a week or so before cleaning them up, one of the old clippings grew a bud! ITS ALIVE - ALIVE! The vine is growning great now - this year it should put out grapes! Amazing!

Here is one of the earlier starts I did - notice how vigorous the roots are! Another think I learned - only 1 of the starts I tried (of more than a dozen clippings) cutting in August ever worked. Almost all of the cuttings I've done in May have worked. Earliest growth in the spring is the best time to try it.