I am thinking of getting grapes to climb fruit trees. I heard it was done back in the day in France. Curious what people’s thoughts are on this. Some seem to think it will strangle the tree and others think it can be managed with pruning.
Don’t do it. The fruit tree will provide to much shade and the grapes will compete with the tree roots.
- You will have two plants competing for the same resources of soil, water, and sunlight.
- The grapes will tend to grow too high in the tree to be easily harvested.
- Both will have reduced production.
- Disease pressure will be increased for both due to foliage density.
As a kid, I climbed 30 feet up in a tree to harvest the Scuppernongs my dad had planted and let grow rampant. The worst part was getting up in the tree and reaching for some grapes only to be stung by a pack saddle.
I don’t know if cultivated grapes are any different, but I’ve seen wild grapes strangle trees. If it were me, I’d train my grapes on a trellis elsewhere.
I have grapes climbing some landscape trees. The landscape trees don’t really matter to me, but I would never do it on a fruit tree for the reasons listed above. It does work pretty good though, you just need to use something other than a fruit tree.
If you watch The Permaculture Orchard and some videos on Stefans youtube… he grows alot of grapes in trees…but mostly on his Nitrogen Fixers. They appear to do very well in his orchard.
Edible Acres has a video showing grapes growing in trees as well.
It works OK for a while, but eventually either the tree wins or the grape does. With fruit trees, it will usually be the grape. As mentioned above, it’s a pain to harvest. It’s also difficult to prune, and unpruned grapes tend to not produce much. If you look at the grapes that grow wild, about 90% of them just grow vegetatively trying to keep up with whatever they’re growing on, and the remaining plants produce some, but not a lot. In short, yes you can grow grapes on trees, but it will be a pain to manage, and your total yield (grapes+whatever else) will likely be much less than you get from the same total area planted separately.
I would advise not to do it for all the reasons posted above. Use a one wire trellis.
You can do that, but it’s the perfect place for birds to eat your grapes— and the vines will set most of the fruits near the very top of the tree.
I did this once in Louisville, KY about 15-16 years ago. I had grapes climbing mulberry trees, just like I read they did in ancient Greece. What happened was the mulberry shaded the grape and it made a large but fruitless grape that then competed with the mulberry. I then realized that Greece/Rome etc. all have much more of a drier, more mild mediterranean climate completely different than humid KY’s. I could see it possibly working out on nitrogen fixing trees as mentioned (N. fixing trees often have lacy foliage that does not shade out things underneath it severely). However, it will be near impossible to manage the vine, and much fruit would likely get eaten by birds, or rot. At least in the Mid-Atlantic that would be the case - we have wild grapes climbing trees all over the place but I never see grapes. But if you don’t want to manage the vine you could give it a try. But a densely shading tree would likely diminish the grapes ability to crop or grow properly. In dry, hot climates this could work better.
Once my grape clusters set and get some size… I prune my vine/leaves to open up the east side to allow morning sun to get to the grape clusters.
Tight clusters that remain wet… often rot.
Would be more difficult if they were growing in a tree.
I think allowing grapes to grow in your fruit trees might work well for a season (few years)…
In the wild, when timber is cut hard, wild grapes flourish for a season (3-4-5 years or more) and produce fruit well… but eventually the timber out grows the wild grape vines… you still have grape vines dangling from the trees… but very little fruit… not enough sunshine.
If you had some type of fruit tree or nut tree that had sparse limbs, leaves, let a lot of light thru the canopy… might work better for longer…
you would need a weak
low-growing tree for the grapes.
I prefer a wire trellis.
What do you think about a trellis surrounding the tree for grapes?
How about a wire trellis surrounding the trees?
I read somewhere that 90% of the wild Muscadine grapes have male only flowers. Never thought about it before. Some have male and female, and some also have female only flowers. Of course no one breeds the male flower only grapes. And I agree, most smaller trees are killed by the grapes vines in the wild.
@elivings1 — that might work better, depending on the tree (how broad the top is).
You would want your grape vine planted, or at least grown so that the fruit bearing branches are on the south - south/west side (the sunny side).
I have a huge wild muscadine that grows well and fruits abundantly and it is under a rather large pignut hickory tree. Most of the tree canopy is up much higher than the muscadine vine. It is shaded by other trees during the AM (the woods)… and by the Pignut part of the early evening, then gets direct sunlight late in the day only. I don’t know if some grape varieties are better suited for partial sun… but (WILD) muscadines at least… seem to tolerate it pretty well… as well as some hickory juglone.
@TNHunter @elivings1 Your muscadine vine is in what I consider one of its natural environments. I’ve seen the same growth habits while walking through wooded areas. Normally they will vary in how much fruit they will produce. Whenever a tree falls or an area is cleared wild muscadines will be one of the first to colonise the area causing the young trees to struggle getting high enough to avoid being shaded out. Although they sometime produce fairly well I have never seen one in the wild come close to producing what can come from a mature vine on a trellis a (50-100#). I still enjoy seeing the wild vines with fruit but I no longer attempt to pick any that are out of reach.
I used a crape myrtle on one of mine. Several years back I put 4 muscadines around it. They climbed straight to the top, then started throwing branches straight out that drop back to the ground looking like an umbrella. That is where the fruit is. Each year I just cut off the ones almost to the ground. So far it has worked well. Have a few others going, but not as advanced. Those have low horizontal limbs that I intend to just use like a trellis.