New Plants for Our Home’s Edible Landscaping—Muscadine Grapes

Alachua, one of the first muscadines I ever saw that made me covet them so! Unfortunately, I don't have room for an Alachua vine yet, but others are on their way.
Alachua, one of the first muscadines I ever saw that made me covet them so! Unfortunately, I don’t have room for an Alachua vine yet, but others are on their way.

I am SO excited about these!

Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia) are native North American grapevines unique to the South. Forget about your Chardonnays, your Merlots, and other European varieties, or even American-bred Concords and Niagaras—give me Scuppernongs! I’ve seen them in grocery stores before (in season for just a few weeks), looking all giant and cool, but I didn’t know a whole lot about them. I’ve been inspired to learn more while reading Mark Shepard’s Restoration Agriculture and watching Stefan Sobkowiak’s Permaculture Orchard, both of which talk about growing grapes among your orchard trees. It’s a clever and ecologically-sound way to stack crops in the same space and that’s a very permaculture-y way of thinking. I’ll write more about that another day; for now, let’s get back to muscadines!

These grapes are well adapted to the heat and humidity of the South making them extremely hardy and NOT susceptible to many of the woes that plague more common grapes from pests to diseases and fungus. Numerous comments in the forums at Permies and evidence both anecdotal and research-based confirms their hardiness. One of the requirements for our property is no “any-cides” (herbicides, fungicides, pesticides) so these hardy and productive vines should be a perfect fit.

Darlene variety. Look at that gorgeous bronze color! Some of these are en route as I type.
Darlene variety. Look at that gorgeous bronze color! Some of these are en route as I type.

And look how beautiful they are! Sure, there are white and green and red and black grapes but some of the muscadines look positively metallic in there luster! Bronze is a common color and it’s true—they look absolutely amazing! And healthy? They’re loaded with anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-aging, pro-health goodness. Their wild vitality is something you should be bringing into your diet.

We don’t eat more grapes because while they are delicious, they are also EXPENSIVE. But for the cost of a single bag of grapes from the grocery store you can buy 1-4 entire grape plants to grow you a mighty harvest throughout the season. If you plan your varieties well, you can stage the harvest dates and have a few months of fresh grapes.

A little research from this NC State Extension article put me on to Ison’s Nursery in Georgia, the oldest grower of muscadines at 3 generations! How cool is that? From them, I ordered:

Look how HUGE these are! “The very best of the black muscadines.” I can't wait to have some of these fresh in hand!
Look how HUGE these are! “The very best of the black muscadines.” I can’t wait to have some of these fresh in hand!
  • 2 Darlenes (great taste—“most requested at our fruit stand”—and beautiful!)
  • 2 Taras (excellent pollinator and beautiful)
  • A Supreme (“the very best of the black muscadines” and because they’re HUGE!)
  • A Scuppernong (because they’re classic)

I think that grapes will do well on our property because we have wild grapevines in several spots on our property, and other vines like English Ivy (grrrrr!) are taking up lots of niches along edges. Planting muscadines is my way of swapping out some of these undesirable niche occupants with tenants I’ve pre-screened.

A WORD OF CAUTION

Lillian on vacation. She's a real rummager in the yard, and so is never left out unsupervised. Still, we grow grapes outside the fence where she can't go.
Lillian on vacation. She’s a real rummager in the yard, and so is never left out unsupervised. Still, we grow grapes outside the fence where she can’t go.

For a long time I’ve wanted to add grapes to our home’s edible landscaping but we’ve held back since we have dogs, especially Lillian, a terrier who is quite the yard nibbler. (She’s one of the reasons all toxic plants go outside the fence line.) I cannot emphasize this enough: GRAPES ARE TOXIC TO DOGS. Please consider this and do some research before you buy and place grapes in your edible landscape. All of these are going outside the fence line on our property.

I’ll post pics when they arrive (likely on Instagram) and upload a map with planting positions.

Gardening Is Good!
~Ben

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