Grape expectations

It started off so innocently. Which is, I know, what Prince Paris and Helen of Troy thought when they met for some spanakopita, and then he saw that beauty mark between her eyebrows and pretty soon we all have to watch a shite movie starring Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom.1

So anyway, I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop2 thinking the following:

  1. The British Library

    I should have made that piece on the pear-tree espalier more scientific. I should have given some estimates on expected fruit yield versus yield from untethered trees instead of just writing all the funny.

  2. I wonder if people reading The Dew Abides want wit, want serious homesteading advice, or just want to know what we’ve been up to.
  3. I wish I had a pear right now.
  4. God donut! This coffee is good.

So, I decided to do a little research on fruit yields, which, of those four scattered thoughts, was the one I might turn into a helpful post on the website. And then I quickly got caught up in the virtual debate over whether espalier actually improves fruit yield or hampers it. You supposedly get more fruit per square inch of tree, sure, but how much does snubbing the upward growth of the tree cost me in fruit-bearing branches? What does only permitting a tree to branch in two directions, versus any number of directions on a normal tree with 360 degrees to choose from, mean to the bottom line?

A definitive answer escaped me, given my attention span. And because the internet. My eyes, instead, were drawn to a list on one website of fruit well-suited for espalier or trellis. And my train of thought rumbled down my brain’s creaky tracks thissaway:

  1. Grapes are on the list. No surprise there.
  2. Mmmmm, grapes.
  3. Grapes make wine, even better than peapods do.
  4. Dayum, I wish we could grow something besides muscadine here on the Georgia fall line.
  5. Let’s just google grapes to see if anything else will grow here.
  6. I wonder if they’ll complain at the counter if I go up for another coffee refill.
  7. Holy Mother of Hercules! There are several grapes that will grow here!

It is from this fertile clay that I concocted a new project that could turn the last untamed bit of our yard into a productive team member of the Dew Abode.

A vine idea

A bit about that neglected bit of yard:

It’s about 6 feet wide, and the neighbor’s house is about 6 more feet from the property line. The lots in our neighborhood are Lilliputian. It’s the north side of the lot, too, with our house blocking most of the direct sunlight. It’s also the lowest spot on our property, and the ground eroded badly before we started capturing rainwater on the south side and added rocks and terracing behind the house.

The plan, complete with brick path, river rock, a series of planters and a bottle tree (near the top of the photo).

Oh, and it’s about 50 feet long.

You see a challenge. I see an opportunity. Po-TAY- toe, po-TAH- toe3.

We’d already been scratching our skullcaps trying to figure out how to put a pretty screen in between us and said neighbor, for her sake more than ours, really. We’d toyed with what fruit or veg we might be able to make work with just a bit of sun but hadn’t really landed on something we felt was solid.

But these grapes — we’re eyeing Conquistador or Black Spanish varieties, which, oddly, aren’t the same thing but do both share lineage with Concords — will apparently grow beautiful foliage without direct sun. They should even produce fruit, though undoubtedly not the same yield as in a sunny section. But since we have 50 feet of space to work with, we should get a decent yield all the same.

And if we built an arbor down the side yard and train these grapes up it, we’ll effectively have a 7-foot semi-privacy fence alongside the existing picket, I’ve drawn the whole yard out to scale, because I’m a geek.

Arbor eat ’em

Jenn and I are both pretty excited about turning our ugly, neglected side yard into a feature, complete with small brick path made with bricks re-purposed from one of the chimneys ripped out of the Krakhaus we’re renovating. We’ve plotted a built-in bench at the end of the arbor for sitting and admiring all the beauty — the BEAUTY! — a few years down the road. The five thirsty grape vines will be a perfect excuse to add some water barrels to capture rainwater from the north side of the house. And it looks like we’ll even have a little place to plant the bottle tree4 that Jenn’s been prodding me to build for years.

The British Library

Grapes willing, we’ll have more fruit for jam and maybe even make a little wine from grapes instead of pea pods. (Grape wine has enough fruit flavor that we won’t even have to amend it with citrus like our trusty Pinkeye Tuscadero. I know, I know, crazy talk.)

We’ve got some work to do on infrastructure before we can start in earnest, and that aforementioned Krakhaus renovation is coming to the forefront this summer. But we can’t even order the plants until November anyway, so it looks like my winter project is coming into focus.

But as they say, Troy wasn’t built in a day.


1 All true, at least inasmuch as the Trojan War happened at all. (The spanakopita detail is speculation, but come on. It’s totally what went down.)
2 Despite its incongruous name. MY Boulange? Clearly it should be either My Bakery or Ma Boulange. Although that’s really more of a sticking point for Jenn, who had five years of French lessons.
3 Does anyone actually say “po-TAH-toe,” because, if so, that guy needs a good punchout.
4 No watering required.


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