Grow your own wine grapes, hops at home

The Tribune (SLO) - - Home & Garden - BY LEONARD CICERELLO

Q: Can I re­ally grow grapes and hops in my gar­den?

– Don T. Ar­royo Grande

A: Grapes are versatile enough for home gar­dens.

They’re sold pot­ted and bare root. Plant them in full sun away from land­scaped ar­eas since they do not re­quire as much wa­ter as lawns and or­na­men­tals.

Grapes grow as a vine but will be­come ground­cover if not trained cor­rectly. Start train­ing your plant when it begins to branch out, and pe­ri­od­i­cally prune lightly to main­tain its shape for max­i­mum fruit­ing and ripen­ing.

You may stake it and let it grow like a small tree, which is called “head train­ing,” or cre­ate a trel­lis sys­tem as done in com­mer­cial vine­yards. Choose the type best for your fruit pro­duc­tion goals.

A head-trained vine pro­vides lim­ited fruit pro­duc­tion, whereas the trel­lis sys­tem ex­poses the canes to more sun­light, in­creas­ing the for­ma­tion of fruit buds.

Prune heav­ily in the win­ter when the vine is dor­mant. Dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son, prune to main­tain an open canopy for ad­e­quate sun­light to ripen the grapes and air cir­cu­la­tion to min­i­mize pow­dery mildew.

Re­move ex­cess canes that do not pro­duce fruit. Wa­ter in­fre­quently, but deeply.

When grow­ing wine grapes, all the grapes need to ripen at the same time. And mon­i­tor­ing for sugar, acid and pH lev­els is im­por­tant.

Hops are avail­able as plants or rhi­zomes from spe­cialty grow­ers.

Hops bines — not vines — can grow to 25 feet and weigh 20 pounds. There are scores of meth­ods for train­ing them and pro­vid­ing the needed sup­ports.

Plant hops af­ter the dan­ger of frost is over in spring. Wa­ter them lightly and fre­quently.

Use hops fresh off the bine, or dry them in air­tight con­tain­ers and store them in a freezer un­til you are ready to use them. Dry hops are most of­ten used com­mer­cially.

Har­vest hops be­tween mid-Au­gust through Sep­tem­ber, picking by hand. Af­ter the first year, cut the bine down two to three feet above the ground to pick.

As win­ter ap­proaches, cut the bine down to six to eight inches above the ground.

To learn more about grapes and hops, at­tend the UCCE Mas­ter Gar­den­ers Ad­vice to Grow By work­shop from 10 a.m. to noon Satur­day, April 20, in the demon­stra­tion gar­den at 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo.

In the case of in­clement weather, please meet in the au­di­to­rium.

Gar­den do­cents will be avail­able af­ter the work­shop un­til 1 p.m.

TAMI REECE Spe­cial to The Tri­bune

Grapes can be grown in home gar­dens.

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