Table grapes are grown for their refreshing, juicy fruits and consumed fresh, while other varieties are grown for the production of wine, juices, vinegar or for drying into sultanas and raisins.
There are more than 40 varieties of table grapes grown in Australia, with 'Thompson Seedless', a small oval-shaped fruit that turns golden yellow when fully ripe; 'Crimson Seedless', a sweet, light red, oval-shaped fruit with a crisp texture; 'Black Muscat', which is almost black with large, sweet, fleshy fruit, and 'Red Globe', a pinkish/red, very large plum-sized grape being amongst the most popular with home gardeners.
Grape vines do extremely well in Tasmania as they like hot, dry summers and cool winters.
They require a growing position with full sun but are not too fussed as to soil type, providing it is free draining.
Vines can be trained over some form of strong support, such as a pergola or a structure of strained wires between posts.
Plant vines in a north-south direction, so the fruit and leaves have maximum exposure to sunlight.
Purchase grape vines from plant centres in winter while they are dormant, but if you have a friend that has a particularly good variety, you can grow your own from a cutting as they strike easily.
Cuttings are taken in winter from last season's well matured wood, preferably with a small heel of old wood attached.
If you cannot get a small heel of old wood, any mature close budded shoot will do.
Two or three 36cm long cuttings can be obtained from each cane, but only the basal (bottom) cutting will have the heel of old wood attached.
There are generally a lot of dormant buds in this heel, which give the cutting a better chance to strike.
Insert each cutting into a pot filled with coarse sand or propagating mix.
These cuttings will callous up and form roots and new growth by early spring when they can be planted out into the garden.
Plant deeply, so that only the two top buds show above the ground.
Give the cuttings plenty of water in the summer.
Then in the following winter, remove all the growth except the strongest shoot.
This shoot is then cut back to two buds to direct all the root's energy into one strong shoot, which is going to be the trunk of the vine, and from it, the arms along the trellis wires.
Training the vine is important to give good coverage and to promote good fruiting wood.
The coverage of a vine varies according to the variety but a single grapevine should cover a pergola 1.5 m wide by 4m long in just a few years.
Train the vine to the top of the support, then nip it to prevent further vertical growth.
During their initial growth stage, grapes need regular watering, with a drip irrigation system being the best option as overhead watering, especially when the vines are fruiting, can cause fungal problems.
Table grapes are best harvested when fully ripe as they don't sweeten after being picked.
July 19: Australian Plant Society meeting at Max Fry Hall, Gorge Road, Trevallyn, Launceston, 7.30pm. Visitors always most welcome.
July 20: Launceston Horticultural Society meeting, Windmill Hill Hall, High Street, 7.30 pm.
Entomologist, Dr Peter McQuillan, will give a visual presentation on pollination of native plants and the importance of how native plants provide food for our native birds and wildlife. General public are most welcome to attend this very interesting and informative presentation.
Daily: Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden, Romaine, Burnie, from 9am to 4pm. Tea room open 9.30am to 4pm.
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