HOW I GOT STARTED
Where I once lived I had a beautiful grape-vine that gave me enough grapes every year to make forty bottles of wine. The house was old, and I assume the vine was too. It was huge, grew on the east side of the house, and got no sunshine until noon. Not ideal conditions for growing grapes, but somehow it did. I neither fertilized it nor watered it, figuring that it was so deep it probably found all the goodies it needed.
When I moved, I despaired of ever finding a vine like it so I decided to take cuttings, and see if I could grow some duplicates. Here's how it's done.
WHEN TO HARVEST CUTTINGS
Before harvesting, it's important that your vine is dormant. That will depend on where in the country you live. I was in the north then, so dormant meant January.
You will need some rooting compound, and a few small pots filled with good potting soil, or you can put several in one larger pot.
Look for some good healthy branches from last years growth. You'll need branches that are about the thickness of those yellow lead pencils the kids use at school.
Cut through one of these branches and look at the place you have cut. Use a sharp knife, or an exacto knife to take your cuttings. If the inside of the cut branch is hollow, try another branch. If you look at the cross-section of a useful branch, it should be solid, and a nice light greenish color.
You must have branches that are from twelve to fourteen inches long, and contain four or more healthy, but dormant, buds.
Dip each branch into a bowl of tepid water, then into the rooting compound. Push it deeply into the potting soil, and water.
CARING FOR YOUR CUTTINGS
The soil around the cuttings must be kept moist, so check it daily. Keep your pots in a warm protected location, by a window, or better still, in the greenhouse, if you have one.
Watch for sprouts, but remember that the sprouts will appear and will become several inches long, before your vines have taken route. The soil must still be kept damp, but never soaked.
By the time spring comes, your shoots will be green and healthy. Now is the time to put them outdoors, but just in the sunny warm part of the day. Bring them in at night.
Harden the vines off by leaving them out for longer and longer periods. When your vines are fully hardened, plant them in their permanent home, on the south side of your home.
Grapes like warm sun, and rich well-drained soil. During the growing season, they will need plenty of water and some good fertilizer, but only for the first two years. A 10-10-10 fertilizer is perfect. Once mature, grapes don't need a lot of food.
This is a great project to do with your children. It teaches them where their food (and wine) comes from, and also that when you need or want something, you don't always need money to pay for it.
My grapes are doing well, but it will be a long time before I can count on a harvest like the one produced by my old friend in the north.