Short Season Grapes

Our place is marginal for growing and maturing grapes but I keep trying. For years I grew Valiant which is maybe the mainstay short season grape and I harvested quite a bit and made a lot of good juice. But the black rot got too bad so I gave it up. In 2013 I planted in a more open spot a Marquette and Prairie Star, and transplanted a Bluebell and King of the North (both of which only mature here in a very good year but they’re more black rot resistant). After a couple of bad winters of dying back (but regrowing) this year all four set a light crop. And am I ever happy with Marquette and Prairie Star! Bluebell and King were always one or two weeks behind Valiant and they are likewise behind Marquette and Prairie Star. So I’m guessing these two are similar to Valiant as far as ripening, though I think they are not quite so hardy. Marquette is a small purple, but nice bunch, often grown for wine but I’m going for juice. But unlike Valiant and King it is sweet when first fully colored (at least this year it is). Most of my bunches are full purple already and getting sweeter and I could harvest them now. It’s a sturdy grower. Prairie Star (a white) is similar in being sweet early though it is a more petite plant, smaller bunches and a milder flavor. Reminds me of what I remember of Kay Gray which means it should be good mixed with the purples for juice. Bluebell is a wonderful large sweet (relatively speaking) grape and worth it for those few years when it will mature a crop, and it looks like this is the year! King is fine when it is full ripe, similar to Valiant (though later), vigorous and I’m happy to get a crop but it will be replaced with a Marquette. Thankfully the birds aren’t a problem and I’m the only one making inroads, testing often to see how they are coming along, so I can let the late comers ripen. If they hurry it up before frosts arrive.

Marquette Grape

Prairie Star Grape

Upper left clockwise: Bluebell, Marquette, Prairie Star, King of the North


Nice. Not familiar with those varieties. Do you have your vines under straw or something during the winter?

Nice ones, Sue!
I grow those same varieties down here in tropical zone 5😀.
I like Marquette, this is the first year I’ve gotten a significant crop on my single vine, and I am trying to hold back harvesting them until brix is above 20, but the cat birds might force my hand…
A real favorite is Somerset Seedless, the is a nice compact growing vine that is the earliest of the 8 or so varieties I have. Starts ripening here in mid August, and can be picked early and still tastes good, I still have about half of the crop hanging to intensify the sugars, so it has a long harvest window. Seems disease resistant. Delicious fresh eating. I prefer it to the old standby seedless grape of the north, Reliance.

SS on left


Thanks. @tennessean, I don’t do anything special to the vines, just regular mulch, but we get a good snow cover and some are under, some above, and some die above and some below. I don’t prune till after bud swell or break in spring and just go with whatever makes it through the winter, count live buds and prune and tie up whatever I have however I can. Valiant was hardier with usually a lot less winterkill so they were trellised as usual. @JesseS, I appreciate the comparison! It’s so hard to tell by just descriptions. I’ll defintely get a Sommerset S next year. Sounds great. Sure hope it can make a crop up here. I think the good number of ripe wild black cherries we have helps distract the birds from my grapes. That and a young cat who is a passionate hunter. And temps are getting into the 40s now so the birds are all heading down your way!

What do you mulch with? I have Valiant, King of the North, ES#56, Minnesota 78 and DM 8521-1. All but Valiant are young and have not produced grapes yet. I started laying the grapes down and covering deeply with peat moss and since I began this practice I have had zero dieback.
We do have lots of snow though. This year I planted Somerset Seedless and Vanessa I hope they will do well, the Summerset sounds like a lovely grape.

1 Like

Hi Ursula, I mostly mulch with hay and/or pine needles, sometimes leaves, whatever I have. Enough to keep the weeds down. It’s nice to hear that covering your vines for the winter has worked. In some years past I tried laying some down and not others and didn’t see any difference and didn’t care for the hassle so decided that I’d just go for finding hardier grapes. But I didn’t cover them (except for snow).I think I have more trouble with the late spring/early fall frosts/freezes. I just bought a large tarp and arranged my vines so I can cover them (I only have 4) to protect and also take advantage of the heat of the ground. I’ll be interested in hearing how Somerset and Vanessa, and the others too, do for you when they fruit. I may have to re-expand my vineyard:smiley:

1 Like

Check my backyard growing post for my grape reviews in Zone 4. I have tried both leaving up on trellis and laying down. Better success with lying down. Somerset survied trellised up in zone 4 but it is partially under a oak tree which might have changed local climate. Somerset is the best grape I have ever tasted. Ripe for me 1st week august and after 3 weeks bunches still hanging were just starting to shrivel. For bird and bug protection I wrap each bunch in an Organza bag which I can reuse.

Next year should have Catawaba (think will be too late), Reliance, Vanessa, Swenson Red, Valiant to compare.

If I was in zone 3 I think i would be lying them all down and covering in peat moss as others have suggested although more mature vines may be more hardy. Mine are young and just started producing this year…


@JesseS. For protecting your grapes from birds try Organza bags. I bought the moss green 6x9 from After 1 season they still look new. Bags might be a bit short for larger cluster varieties. These bags also work great for apples though you can get some surface scarring vs ziplocks. Don’t use ziplocks for grapes, they cook and rot.

I think these bags would work great for peaches and other softer fruit where you want aeration to avoid rot. Sure it would be too much work for a real vineyard but I can do about 3-4 bunches per minute so it is fine for my 2 rows in my backyard.

What are the other varieties you have planted?


Thanks for the tip, yellow jackets are probably my biggest pest when it comes to grapes and I imagine organza bags would help with those too.
Other ones I grow include Bluebell, Prairie Star, Worden, King of the North.

Yes, works great against birds and insects. I tie the drawstring to the cane so squirrels seem to have problems with it too. Won’t stop raccoons though! If they are low enough or your trunk is big enough they will climb and chew through the bag. Has not been a big issue for me because my fruiting area is at 6’ on a Geneva double curtain. My trunks are not too big either because I grow 4 trunks (back-ups for winter kill) and plan on replacing 1 trunk every 4 years to keep them renewed and from getting too big (big trunks can’t be bent down in autumn to lay on the ground).

Last year was my first year with fruit though so plans may change with experience. Happy so far with the Geneva double curtain because planting vines 8’ apart give each vine 16’ of canopy, excellent sun exposure and ventilation. (16’ = 4’ each direction x 2 wires)

Im in ND and have been doing grapes for a while now. Ive had best luck with Swenson Red, Valiant and Edelweiss. All are very hardy and vigorous and dont need to be laid down here. More recently I have been having luck with reliance seedless which is a nice grape. Im adding Vanessa, Somerset and Mars seedless this year. I tried Somerset a few years ago and it died, but Im giving it another go…


My Summerset Seedles, Trollhaugen, Vanessa, Suffolk Seedless and Frontenac Gris all made the winter exceptionally well. The only one I did not lay down and cover was the Frontenac Gris and it is now budding to the tip, (although it is not a very long vine), still, no cover at all, not even snow.

I must add, these grapes are planted in the ground in my greenhouse, we do not heat it in the winter and the plastic is not much for insulation. At night the temps in there do not vary at all from the outside temps. but when daybreaks the sun heats it up pretty good. I wonder if this helps, as the length of time the air in there is at -40C is probably shorter than if they were outside.

My though is that would hurt hardiness. Wide swings in temperature usually aren’t good. If it doesn’t get above freezing during the day then it might be a net plus. The ground won’t freeze as deep. What I won’t like is -40F at night and +50F by day.

The temperature swings don’t get that extreme and it never reaches zero in the greenhouse during the winter. When the sun is out it is too weak and low on the horizon for that. My words maybe were not chosen properly.
By the time it starts to warm up in the spring we turn the heat and fans on to regulate the temperature. That is when I uncover the grapes and the ground is still solidly frozen in there.

Concord grapes already forming fruit flowers here.


I came across a new Canadian hardy grape this year from Vignes chez soi. Rolland.

From their facebook page:

The Roland

100 % Quebec Grape Variety! :smiley:
It was discovered in the early 2000 s by Roland Boisvert at la pocatière!

It is a green grape with seeds of exceptional qualities!

It has a divine flavor of peach, apricot and hint of maple syrup!
It’s very sweet.
Its taste qualities make it one of our favorite grape varieties among our selection!

It’s very rustic. Although we still have very little data, it seems at least as rustic as somerset that resists without any winter protection up to-35°C!

He’s very hasty! Maturity Mid-August!

Its exceptional flavour makes it a table grape to be eaten fresh! It also produces a succulent juice and an excellent verjus (Grape pressed before maturity! )

Anyway, you’ll get it!.. one of our big favorites!

For more information, here is an excellent article to read on the Roland (P10 and 11 of the document):

Here is a rough English translation:

Le Roland, a grape from the pocatois terroir "Have the crops been good this year? This is the question most often asked in the autumn by enthusiasts of horticulture market gardening and fruit. Personally, I am still surprised and delighted, even after more than ten years of harvesting grapes, to see so generously produce several varieties of vines in our garden. Since the end of August, ripe grapes fill our table and the harvest has just finished, in mid-October. The first to mature is the Roland whose little story is the pride of the one who welcomed him in this world, my spouse, Roland Boisvert.

A spontaneous sowing! Like apple trees, the vines must be cut to propagate the same variety. If you sow an apple seed or a grape seed, you will be surprised to discover a new variety, quite different sometimes from the original fruit. The taste quality and the size of the fruits obtained will be random. So you can get very good, like very bad.

In 2000, freshly retired from the ITA of La Pocatière where he taught horticulture for 30 years, Roland installed the vines, of various varieties, planted a few years earlier in his garden located between Mountain Ronde and the Pointe Mountain in La Pocatière. The following year, he realized that a spontaneous sowing developed, very vigorously besides another plant. Quite by chance, he decides to keep this planting and destroy the other plant.

The first fruits of this spontaneous sowing prove to be green grapes with seeds and are the first of all varieties to mature in the garden at the end of August 2003. Surprised, Roland Boisvert finds them very tasty and very sweet, With a slightly spicy touch. Alleluia! He had selected the right plant!

At the suggestion of Claude Gélineau, professor who succeeded Roland at the ITA, the variety was named Roland in 2007, of course in honor of the passionate horticulturist who gave him his first attentions. Thus a new variety of grapes had just been born.

First cuttings. It was in the spring of 2004 that Roland produced the first cuttings of his vineyard of the pocatois terroir. The 2005 harvest on the mother plant confirms that it is essential to continue the experiment because the Roland are generally ready to be harvested between 10 and 30 September and their sugar level varies between 20 and 25 brix, an excellent average.

Other cuttings of Roland are therefore introduced to the garden, then to the orchard of Roland Boisvert. Since 2007, Claude Gélineau plants cuttings of this vineyard in his vineyard located in Saint-Pacôme and Denis Gendron does the same for the Floral Garden. First, there are a few hundred cuttings that are sold or provided free of charge to people in the area or outside, and now they can not be counted!

Promising harvests In Saint-Germain de Kamouraska, a family business stands out for its production of Roland, the Farm Le Raku. Since 2011, Samuel Lavoie and Nicole Goulet have planted nearly a thousand Roland vines (and more than 5,000, all varieties combined). They produce an excellent juice, a verjus (pressed grapes before maturity) and, like Claude Gélineau in Saint-Pacôme, Denis Patry in Beaumont and Roland Boisvert in La Pocatière, they proceed to the vinification of the Roland. The results are interesting. It is to follow … at most in two years!

Other vineyards in Quebec are experiencing the production of Roland in Témiscamingue, the Domaine Des Ducs vineyard and Yamachiche in Domaine Beauchemin. Hasty ripening and frost resistance make this variety very attractive for regions that are less climate friendly. For example, the 2015 crop of Denis Patry de Beaumont, at its experimental vineyard The most beautiful cuttings: the Roland grape variety that was part of the first harvest was harvested on September 12 and produced on average 2.5 kg / fruit plant at one brix of 21%.

All hopes are allowed … It is more and more near the day when we raise our glasses well filled with a wine typical of our terroir! To the enthusiasts of this culture I wish … good wine!


I’m happy with my grape harvest this year, and surprised they did so well considering we didn’t have more than 2 or 3 days without rain until Sept. But it was very warm. We’ve had many hard frosts starting the first of Sept., before berries were ripe. But this year we covered with a large tarp and that worked. So a few days ago I harvested my Marquette - 6#, Prairie Star - 1#, and King of North - 7# (one vine each, 4 yrs old). Marq. wasn’t quite as strongly flavored as last year, likely due to the rain, but pleasant. PS is a petite vine but the fruit ripens earliest and is nicely sweet. I hope it ups its quantity in the future, though it does tend to get overrun by vigorous Marq. KoN I was going to remove, it’s way too vigorous for the small space it has, but it ripened so well this year and it does have that very strong “welch’s grape juice” aroma, color, flavor (in a not so sweet way). But it did have a bit of black rot, though not much (picked off leaves and berries affected early) considering this blighty year. Many leaves of all had something or other. But very good fruit overall. Juice now in jars in the pantry waiting for apple cider to mix with (my favorite).

Bluebell has beautiful large fruit, as usual, but not quite ripe. Looks like it’ll make it though, maybe next week. No bird damage so I’m comfortable letting it hang awhile more. The birds apparently prefer the large Autumn Olive crop nearby, thank goodness.

Brianna and Sommerset planted this spring grew well. Brianna very vigorous and may be more leaf disease. We’ll see how that goes. But Sommerset looks great. Moderately vigorous (suits my space better) and healthy. Made it to the top wire! Can’t wait for a harvest. Meantime I’ll just drool over Jesse and others photos.



Thought I’d give an update on my grapes. Winter of '17-'18 was a record vole year and for the first time ever I had vole damaged vines so it was hrd to determine what was winter kill and what was caused by vole damage. There was quite a bit of both.

This past winter I figured would be a good one because we had more snow than usual (3 ft instead of 2), but the grapes weren’t as impressed as I was. It was also a very long cold winter, started early. Winterkill was significant, scattered, both low and high.

Bluebell came through the best with just minor winterkill. A June 4 freeze (24 deg) killed some early opening leaves but I had enough good buds to easily prune to 40.

Prairie Star was next with a lot of winterkill (about 1/4 - 1/3) with scattered live buds, some damage from the June 4 freeze but enough good buds left and secondaries coming along to prune to 40 buds, and a good chance for a decent harvest. Thankfully it’s tops for early maturing.

Marquette unfortunately may have to be replaced. It had significant vole damage previous winter but had grown vigorously last season (maybe too much for vole damaged roots?). But most of the vine winterkilled this year. It’s possible it’s just not as hardy as I’d thought but I’m not giving up on the variety. I’m guessing damage. It’s growing new shoots from the roots so I’ll see how it goes.

Brianna planted in 2017 had died down it’s first winter or maybe vole damage. Regrew VERY vigorously and even set a little bunch. So I got a taste - very nice, larger than Prairie Star and possibly more flavor, sweeter (hard to tell with just a few berries). Unfortunately, about 3/4 winterkill this year. Will let grow what there is and hope it somehow gets hardier as it gets older.

Somerset Seedless planted in 2017 was girdled that first winter. It’s a much more sedate grower than Brianna (thankfully) and it regrew nicely. Healthy, very little leaf problems. This year most of it winterkilled except for a few low buds, which leafed early (compared to the others) and froze with the 24 deg June4th. Live buds from ground level and below growing. It’s still young so I certainly haven’t given up on it.

King of the North I dug out last fall. Just way too vigorous for my setup and though prolific doesn’t ripen all that well. And it’s a rather sour grape. Bluebell is similar ripening (as in, only the best years) but it’s a larger and better grape for me. I was going to replace with another Bluebell but instead transplanted a 2 yr seedling (from seed) Prairie Star I had growing in the nursery. Top all winterkilled but has 5 low buds or below ground shoots growing.

So not the best winter for the vines but there’s enough good buds growing to keep me ever hopeful.


Hi Sue. Have you considered any of the other Minnesota varieties like Itasca? Too many buds on a vine the previous year can compromise winter hardiness but so can many other things like late season mildew, trunk diseases, or vole/tractor/physical damage.

1 Like

Petite Pearl should be able to ripen there as well.

1 Like