If you have ever been around a muscadine vine in the late summer, you will always associate the sweet smell to a hot summer afternoon. Muscadines are delicious, nutritious and adaptable to many foods such as juice, jelly or cobbler pies. And of course, they are tasty to eat on their own.
Many novice gardeners are advised to begin with a muscadine vine because it is so easy to grow and thrives in many harsh conditions. As with blueberry farming, they do well in the southeastern portion of the United States.
The vines typically produce beautiful black, purple, pink, red, green or even bronze colored grapes. Best of all, they are very nutritious and provide many health benefits.
Health Benefits of Muscadines
Muscadine grapes are high in antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E and are significantly more nutritious than the average table grape.
Free radicals are chemical materials formed by cells and tissues and can damage normal tissue. In our tissues free radicals are normally removed if low in number. When there are more free radicals formed especially in chronic diseases or during inflammation, our bodies need more protecting molecules known as antioxidants which are beneficial phytochemicals that help protect cells from free-radical damage.
Muscadines are also great for bowel regularity and weight control since they are rich in fiber and water by weight. They are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties and can help with symptoms associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis, gout, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Colitis, Atherosclerosis and COPD.
Choosing the Right Muscadine
If you are just starting out, choose a self-fruitful type which produces fruit on its own. Common types include Dixie Red and Nesbitt.
Other types of vines must be planted near self-fruitful vines to cross pollinate.
Be sure to buy your muscadine vine from a local nursery for better quality. You can also order them from nurseries online.
How to Plant Muscadines
Testing the Soil
Muscadines do best in hot, humid weather making them common in the southeastern part of the United States. They are a full sun plant and thrive in a well-drained soil with a pH between 6 and 6.5. Before you decide on a location, get a soil testing kit from a local home store and determine if your soil is too acidic.
Once you select a location, plant them in early fall or winter.
If you purchase a 1 gallon muscadine shrub, dig a hole roughly twice the size of the plant.
Cut away the plastic container and "rough up" the root ball so they will have an easier time getting started in the soil.
Pack soil around the plant making sure to water it as you go along. Leave about an inch of the top exposed.
After planting, prune it to just one stem and cut it back to only 2 or 3 buds.
After the plant is in the ground, cover with mulch to help retain moisture. Fertilize periodically with a 10-10-10 fertilizer.
In the early spring, fertilize with a 19-10-4 Citrus and Pecan Tree food.
When new growth begins to emerge, choose the strongest and healthiest looking green shoot and cut away others.
Once established, the vines will grow fast so you will need to prepare a structure to train the Muscadine into a growing pattern.
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Train a Muscadine Vine
Muscadine vines take off fast so it is important to build a structure to train it. The simplest method is to build a wire trellis.
If you are just starting out with your first muscadine vine, it should be located in the middle of your trellis.
Start by burying two 4 x 4 posts in cement about 20 - 25 feet apart. You can buy the pressure treated posts in eight foot lengths at any home improvement store. Pick up a 40 lb. back of cement and some a roll of #9 galvanized steel wire while you are there. Make sure you get enough wire to span your posts.
Dig a hole deep enough to account for the frost line. That will depend on your part of the country, but in the southeastern and mid-atlantic areas where muscadines thrive, 18 inches will be about right.
Place some crushed gravel in the bottom of the hole, then place the 4x4 inside and pour the dry cement in the hole. Add water and poke it with a metal pole such as a piece of rebar.
Normally I would say to mix the concrete with water in a wheel barrow first if you were building a structure like a deck or other footings, however, this method is the easiest and the posts will not be supporting a lot of weight.
As the concrete dries, make sure it is plumb using a four foot level. Do the other post the same way and allow to dry for a day.
Next, string the wire tight between the two 4 x 4 posts. You can hook it around a nail or screw to keep it in place. Make sure it is secure as the wire will eventually be supporting the vine the entire length of the span.
If you have not already planted your muscadine plant, place it in the middle of the trellis wire, and attach a bamboo stake to support its growth upward.
After a month or so when the vine reaches the top of the wire, cut the tip of it so two lateral arms can develop. Train them in each direction of the wire and allow them to spread outward the first year.
Spurs will develop along the vine during the second year of growth. Be sure to prune each of them to about three inches.
Alternately, you can train a muscadine vine over a trellis or an arch for an aesthetically appealing look.
How to Plant a Muscadine Vine
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Harvesting Muscadine Grapes
Thick, coarse leaves will emerge in the late spring and begin to ripen in the late summer. At that point you can pick individual grapes or clusters of grapes.
When the plant has finished blooming in the late fall, the leaves will turn a bronze, gold color. If there are any remaining fruits on the vine at that point, remove them and prepare it for winter by pruning it back with shears.