The new pergola framework takes shape among the grape vine plantings.
The new pergola framework takes shape among the grape vine plantings.

One of our many dreams on the farm has always been to plant and develop a little vineyard on the hillside.

Almost all of our crazy ideas begin with some type of “future vision” – and this one was born from a thought of someday having dinner on the hillside among the grapes while opening up a bottle of our own wine.  At the time – it was little more than a pipe dream…but after a few years now of working at it – we can almost taste the dinner! 🙂

2nd Year Growth....the Marquette grapes are off to a good start.
2nd Year Growth….the Marquette grapes are off to a good start.

There are not too many things you can plant that take more patience than grapes.  You can have radishes, onions and lettuce in 30 or so days from the time you drop the tiny seeds or bulbs into the ground.  You can start peppers or tomatoes indoors in March – and be enjoying the “fruits” of your labor by July.  Even asparagus will reward you in the second year with a few tiny spears to enjoy. Grapes, however, are a long-term proposition – taking upwards of 3 to 5 years to see the first harvest of any size.

The Process So Far…

We started in the summer of 2011 – laying out the hillside and future planting holes with some small wooden stakes and a 100′ tape measure.  We then planted the very first row with a few juice and jelly varieties we picked up on clearance at a local greenhouse.

We used simple stakes to train the grapes during the 1st year of growth.
We used simple stakes to train the grapes during the 1st year of growth.

That winter – we spent our time researching varieties to grow for our wine grapes – and finally settled on ordering the Marquette vine.  It is a newer red type – developed by the University of Minnesota to specifically grow well in the Midwest.

We prepared the planting holes with a good mix of compost and soil – and then were able to plant the next 3 rows of the vineyard in late May.  For the first year of growth – we simply planted small wooden stakes beside each of the tender young plants, tying them up to keep them growing vertically.  We will follow up next year with 8 more rows up the hillside to complete the plantings.

When it is all said and done, we will end up with 12 full 80′ rows of grapes – 10 of them dedicated for wine making – and the other two for jelly, jam and juice (Concorde and Reliance).

Pruning And Support:

It took some time, but all of the post framework for the grapes are finally up.
It took some time, but all of the post framework for the grapes are finally up.

We are using a cordon trained trellis  – which is really nothing more than a fancy name given to the post and wire system that most vineyards use.

In an ideal world – we would have had all of the posts and lines in before we ever put in the first grape-vine – but lets face it – is anything ever ideal? :).   Like almost every project – we concentrated on what we could do at the time – and our first priority was to get the plants in the ground and growing.

We were able to finally dig in the posts early this spring, and for now – have trained the grapes to grow vertically with a few lines of temporary fishing wire.  Now that the plants are growing fast and straight – we will start adding the permanent 12 gauge wire across each pole at the 3′ and 5′ level.  The grapevines should grow enough this year to reach the top 5′ wire, and then begin to fill in the canopy next year for the final “vineyard” look.

The Hillside Pergola Project:

Hopefully someday soon we can enjoy a dinner from here with a view.
Hopefully someday soon we can enjoy a dinner from here with a view.

Last but not least – to complete the dream vision – we needed a place for that “someday” dinner among the grapes.  We leveled off an area that will be right in the middle of the hillside and over look the barn and farm below.  With the framework now up – we will concentrate in the coming weeks to finish it off with reclaimed materials. We still have some old brick left over to use to create the patio floor – and may trim out the two sides of the pergola with a few reclaimed windows we have stashed.  Once that is complete, we plan on planting a few grape vines at the back two pergola posts – to grow up and over for a natural shade canopy.

Who knows….with a little more work and patience…that dinner and glass of homemade wine might just happen someday!

Happy Gardening! – Mary and Jim

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7 thoughts on “Growing Grapes And A Small Vineyard At The Farm – Learning The Art Of Patience

  • February 1, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    I was just looking up ‘plant spacing’ for the grape vines I have on order for this spring. I just happened to type in “Marquette” in case there are variety-specific instructions and I came across your little story about wanting to produce your own wine and enjoy a dinner under the pergola. I built a similar looking structure last summer, made from cedar posts on which I had intended to grow grapes and I also settled on Marquette [40 vines] because I thought in the Ontario climate, they would be most likely to produce wine similar to ones I enjoy most [Malbec, Cab Sauv etc..], while being more hardy and disease resistant. I’d love to hear how your mini vineyard is doing. I may end up growing wisteria on the pergola instead, and just have the vines in tidy rows next to it as I am not sure whether the vines will be vigorous enough to cover the pergola and it might help avoid fungal issues coming from the wood ? Cheers , Andrew

  • June 23, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Another inspiring post. I came for the chickens, but I am enjoying reading about all of your projects. Thanks to you I plan to plant some grapes of my own this fall.

  • June 23, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Can you talk about your pruning process a bit? My partner and I have been discussing how to prune ours. Our grapes naturally have two split branches, but instead of training them both up to the wire, he thinks we should prune one off to focus growth and then let a new growth happen on a branch, once the other one reaches the appropriate height. Thoughts?

    • June 23, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Hi Megan – that is a great question and one we struggled with a little as well. As painful as it is to do – it is better to cut one of them to focus the growth until it grows to the upper portion and then let it branch out. Hope that helps and good luck with your grapes!


      • February 23, 2015 at 6:51 am

        Could Megan possibly plant the cuttings from pruning? I remember reading somewhere that grape plants can be propagated from cuttings.

        • February 23, 2015 at 7:52 am

          Lisa – that is correct – you can propagate from cuttings – although it can be tricky. It is one time where using a rotting hormone really helps , and you need to keep the cuttings in a moist and humid environment until they root. Some varieties work better than others – but it is always worth a try to get some extra plants!

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