Pam Jenkins, Master Gardener
When I think of growing grapes I think of the State of California. California is supposed to be the largest grape producer in the United States. Until three years ago, when I became involved in growing grapes in Gardendale, I would have never dreamed you could grow grapes in the West Texas area because of our extreme climate conditions. After getting involved in the Master Gardener Grape Trial, I discovered that there are more grapes grown in this area both commercially and privately than I ever imagined!
What varieties grow best herein the Midland/Odessa area? Do you want to make wine or jelly, or do you want table grapes? There are varieties that grow well and will satisfy your needs. The best place to find this information is the Texas A&M website https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu. The varieties that we are testing with success in the Trial Garden are Lake Emerald, Champanel, Miss Blanc, Hermont and Lomato.
Choose a protected area with full sun. You begin by planting in the Spring, March to late April, immediately prior to the last freeze. Begin by first tilling 4 inches of organic compost into the soil. A trellis system of some sort will be required to provide support for training the vines as they grow. This usually consists of posts with two to three rows of wire. The trellis provides a means to train the plants to grow up and across the wire and enables the grower to keep the vines off the ground. There are varies types of trellis systems that will work depending on your needs. After the plants are planted the soil needs to be topped with 4 inches of wood mulch. The mulch helps the soil retain water and it also helps maintain a lower soil temperature in the heat of the Summer. Water daily for the first two weeks; then reduce the water as needed.
The first two years the vines don’t produce many grapes at all. It is during this time that training the vines to grow on the trellis is done. Also, constant pruning is necessary. The vines grow very fast and the growth must be kept from growing into the plant next to it and the growth must be kept up off the ground. Come the third year the vines will produce grapes and they will reach maximum production of 40 to 50 pounds of grapes per plant by year five.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.