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Growing grapes in subtropical climate SE QLD

Discussion in 'Fruit & Vegetable Growing' started by Mark, Aug 22, 2013.

  1. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Can I start by saying I'm not grape expert, actually I'm a complete novice as far as grape growing goes...

    However, one thing that irked me when I first moved to a subtropical climate was the notion it was impossible to grow grapes in a hot humid climate and even if you could the vines would suffer and the fruit wouldn't be worth eating.

    So, not to shirk a challenge I decided to see if I could grow grapes on my subtropical property. And, as you can see from the following images it not only is possible but it's also productive and completely busts the myth that it can't be done.

    Yesterday, I trimmed my vine back as grape vines should be pruned each season whilst the plant is dormant (to prevent it from bleeding too much). The pruning gives the vine new vigour to regrow strongly from the remaining shoots to produce good growth and hopefully well formed fruit.

    Grape growers usually grow vines in rows on wire trellises training the plant up a single stem then making a "T" at the top. Pruning back each year is a bit of an art and can be a little complicated to understand but the point I want to make for a home grower is don't be too worried about the finer details of grape growing because as passionate as some are about the "best" way to prune and care for a grape vine, the truth is once established grapes are pretty hardy and even if your pruning technique is amateur (like mine) great grape results can still be achieved with minimal effort.

    For our first grape vine, we decided (as usual) to be unconventional and not grow it normally. Instead, I trained the vine up the side of our house to give the back view a more "softened" look (a Mediterranean feel) and we think it works rather well.

    I installed some galvanised wire on stainless steel eye screws between the two posts to help the grape vine crawl and twirl its way around where we wanted it to go and apart from that I have given it little care.

    Here's the vine with leaves about start summer.​


    Grape vine house 1000.jpg

    Mid-winter is a good time to prune​

    grape vine before pruning 1000.jpg

    The vine is cut back harshly and I leave only about 10 or so new buds (leave the cut about an inch from the bud (if on an end).​

    grape vine bud to look for pruning.jpg

    The images below shows my main pruning effort (not much left) the tips with one or two buds remaining are evident - note that this is not a traditional "T" shape because I have trained the vine up and around.​

    grape vine after pruning 1000.jpg

    Grapes forming - there's something pretty about grapes hanging from your home :)

    grape green bunch downpine house 1000.jpg

    Here's the same bunch fully ripe ready for picking.​

    grape bunch ripe downpipe house 1000.jpg

    picked grapes 1000.jpg
    grape ripe bunch looking through 1000.jpg

    And, that's my grape vine grown in a subtropical climate!
     
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  2. stevo

    stevo Backyard Farmer Premium Member GOLD

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    Last edited: Aug 22, 2013
  3. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Ha ha! Thanks Stevo :)

    I purchased it as a small potted plant (I think it was Daleys or it may have been Bunnings).

    The variety is called Flame Seedless and it took only two seasons to train it where it is and produce the bunches (images you see at top of this thread).

    In the image below it shows the grape vine in it's first year (May 2011) at this point I let it grow two leaders from the base and then after that season (a few months later) I selected the strongest looking leader and removed the other one to make just one stem.

    I tried an experiment last winter to see if I could grow a new vine from cuttings and out of about 4 I had one which struck and is currently growing well in a pot - I'm thinking of planting it on the other side of our house (in lieu of Nina's failed passionfruit vine) when it gets a little stronger and better root development. I'll be trying some more cuttings this year - see how they go.

    grape vine young climbing house.jpg

    Flame seedless grape label good variety for humid conditions.jpg
     
  4. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    That's awesome Mark. And I agree with Stevo that you need to stop it!

    I dont know much about grapes either but it looks like you've done a great job.
    My father used to grow grapes in Adelaide but the weather there is perfect I suspect as he had a mini vineyard and had enough produce to make his own Shiraz wine to last the year till next season. A pretty cool set up really.

    There aren't many wineries up in the sub-tropics but there are a few (Sirromet at Mt Cotton is the most well known that i know of) so they must be able to grow them fairly well or else they wouldn't have much of a business you would think.
    I remember visiting a small winery out near Kenilworth where it gets pretty damn hot and it seemed to be doing ok too.

    I have always wanted a few grape vines as the wife just loves them, as long as they don't have seeds then she will demolish them. I could save a packet in fruit costs during grape season if I could grow my own. I've never seen grapes in a pot before so I doubt I could pull that one off. Might have to wait till I have some of my own dirt.

    Hey Mark, have you ever tried making your own sultanas from the grapes in your dehydrator? My wife eats sultanas every day of her life so I see another money saving idea in the making....
     
  5. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Subtropical wineries are possible and do exist yes true, but they're usually inland or up a mountain. The heat isn't the problem it's more the humidity that hurts the vine and allows the fungal diseases to thrive. The dry heat of SA is perfect but the humidity in a subtropical climate can mean lots of chemicals to keep the crops developing. I'd say that 's where the viability comes in and the notion that grapes can't be grown in these climates when in fact they can, especially, a grape with good disease tolerance. To grow grapes at home (and not for a business) takes the "viability" issue out because we grow for us and not for profit. Here's me getting philosophical again :rolleyes: time to shut up...

    I was going to last season but we ate all the grapes! I'll do a test this Nov/Dec when our next crop will be ready but it's pretty easy to do - just bung'em in and dry'em out. No pesticides, just fresh home-grown produce... magic :D
     
  6. JungHee Seo

    JungHee Seo Member Premium Member

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    Hello, Mark. I was doing a research on grape farming in tropical wet climate in Philippines. I encountered your post and was amazed that you grew such successful grapes in subtropical wet climate! Most researches would discourage any attempt in grape cultivation in yearly hot & humid environment.
    I was hoping maybe you would help with my questions?
    1) Would White Malaga(Thailand)/Black Ribier(Indonesia)/Cardinal grape variety grow in hot(25~30 degrees) and humid(average humidity 80%) climate?
    2) May I ask when did you plant your grapes? And when did you prune and when did you harvest your grapes? I'm curious because grape growing cycle in subtropical climate would be similar to cycle in tropical climate.

    Thank you for reading!
     
  7. Ash

    Ash Well-Known Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Great presentation Mark. Another way of debunking the myth of SE Qld not being the right conditions for grapes is to see how successful Sirromet winery is at growing their grapes just outside of Brisbane. Their vineyard is very productive and they have excelled in their wine making from their grapes.

    I have a small grape seedling in its first year of growth but am aware of the need to spray the vine around the time of production. A copper spray is usually recommended. Have you needed to do this with yours?
     
  8. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Hi JungHee, sorry for not getting back to you earlier. If those cultivars are bred for tropical climates (and they probably are although I'm not grape expert - just a backyard grower) then I would say they should perform well in the Philippines also. New varieties of cross bred grapes able to withstand unconventional grape growing conditions are coming out all the time.

    But growing commercially (for a large market) has more pressures than backyard or hobby farming properties and that's why you see information discouraging growing grapes in subtropical and tropical areas because traditionally it has not been seen as commercially viable. Maybe it is now though, with these more hardy types of grapes able to be grown.

    I think I planted my main vine in about 2010 and I'm pretty sure it was producing grapes two years later!

    Happy to answer any more questions you may have - check out the video below as it answers the rest.

    No I haven't Ash and the vine grows great. Sure, about mid-season the leaves get a bit of rust etc and it can look at little tired but I don't do anything about it. The good thing is the grape vine usually grows well and looks healthy up to and throughout fruiting and then the dieback or leaf problems start. My philosophy is that it is normal for the vine to succumb to disease after fruiting so the leaves fall and the fruit is shown ready to eat (or distribution by animals) - same thing happens to tomatoes - they fruit and then blight sets in big time!

    Of course, there are exceptions and viruses or pests can hit healthy plants etc for sure but generally from my experience the fruit or development isn't affected by a little powdery mildew or rust on grapes. It may only be a worry if the plant is heavily infested really early but then you have to ask why is the plant not able to combat these diseases and usually it's because the prior preparation before the new growth season was poor therefore the plant's immune system is down before it even begins.

    I don't see any real issue with using a fungicide just that it's best not to if you can avoid it - plus it's expensive! I haven't really researched if residue from copper sprays are potentially harmful to humans you'd probably know more about that than me?

     
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  9. Ash

    Ash Well-Known Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Copper is only needed in trace amounts in the human body and as such any additional copper from the environment is likely to be detrimental to our health. It is always good practice to wash the fruit before eating it. But thanks for the info Mark. Looks like I'll just take care of the vine and I too may not need to spray it.
     
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  10. JungHee Seo

    JungHee Seo Member Premium Member

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    Thank you, Mark for your reply.

    If it's not a bother, could you kindly explain which month you decided to plant your grapes and in what temperature?
    I am asking this because I am facing a barrier here.
    I know of grape farming calendar(what months to plant, what months to prune, and what month to harvest etc) in other countries WITH winter.
    However, I couldn't encounter grape farming calendar for tropical climate area. So I am curious of what you did.

    If it's okay, could you please recall your grape farming activities according to months? And where was your vineyard located at?
    If you give me your activity logs I will consider your vineyard's location's monthly weather and decide my own grape farming calendar for tropical wet climate.

    Thank you for reading!
     
  11. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    No problem JungHee, I recall planting mid-spring, which is more the end of dry season and for us is October. The vines grow strong until fruit harvest in December (1st month summer) with die-back around April. Plant is fully dormant around July (mid-winter/dry season) and pruning begins - first new shoots usually in September (1st month of spring).

    I live in South East Queensland (25 km from the coastline) we have a subtropical climate.
     

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