In my last post I looked at growing grapevines on individual posts. Today we continue looking at alternate methods of growing grapes with a special focus on the “married vine.”
First, however, Hilary shares some photos from the Eden Project in Cornwall:
“Following your recent thoughts on grape vines, here’s a couple of photos I took at the Eden Project in Cornwall. They grow grapes at bush size, growing in a border and as something between a cordon and an espalier at close spacing. Not exactly what you wanted for the grocery rows, but fun to know about!”
Something that strikes me repeatedly as I practice gardening is how very many ways there are to grow food and cultivate plants.
As soon as you think you’ve found “the right method,” you find another one that seems better. At my last property I built a small vineyard with power poles and wire. It’s the “proper” single-row system often used in Florida muscadine production.
But it’s by no means the only method. It may not even be the best method, even though it’s common and easy to construct.
There are many methods that can be used. Like growing grape vines on trees!
Growing Grape Vines on Trees with the “Married Vine” Method
Andrew Wallace emailed me a fascinating article yesterday covering the “married vine” method of growing grapes, as practiced in ancient Italy:
“The Etruscans were the first winegrowers in Italy, beginning from the wild varieties.
The wild grapevine is a local plant in the Mediterranean area. In the more ancient times, people began to gather its fruits in the woods.
The wild vine (Vitis vinifera sylvestris) is a native species of the Mediterranean area and, above all, in Italy, it finds its ideal conditions. Even today, it is possible to find wild vines in our woods (even if you have to make attention to distinguish them from vines became wild, from old abandoned vineyards). The varieties we cultivate today derive from the wild vine, modified through millennia by selections and crossings carried out by man.
Returning to the Etruscans, scholars hypothesize that they cultivated the vine since the Bronze Age, however at least from the twelfth century B.C.
Later, with the development of civilization, being great navigators and merchants, they had increasingly intense contacts with the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean (especially with the Greeks), where culture and viticulture techniques were already more evolved. This allowed them to refine production techniques, to import new tools and new practices of working. New oriental vine varieties were also imported (whose process of domestication began in a much more remote era in the Caucasus area). These new vines were cultivated and crossed with local varieties too.
Thanks to these influences, the primitive Etruscan viticulture grew and grew over the centuries, and wine production increased in quantity and quality. So, from the 6th century B.C., began also the overseas trade (which we will discuss later).
The Etruscans cultivated vines in the same manner they saw these plants grow wild in the woods. The vine is a climbing shrub, a species of liana. In a wood, its natural environment in our latitudes, it tends to climb up a tree to reach the light as possible (it is very heliophilous specie). However, it is not a parasite: the vine does not weaken the tree on which it clings.
Today the Etruscan cultivation system name is “married vine”, “vite maritata” in Italian. The vine is like “married” to the tree. This definition is not Etruscan but was born later, as we will see. The Etruscan word was “àitason”.
I highly recommend reading the entire post, which is replete with illustrations and paintings of the method of growing grape vines on trees.
I have not incorporated grapevines into my food forest systems yet, as they are often too vigorous for young trees, and I keep moving before the system gets big enough to handle them. However, our current property has a wide variety of trees of various sizes which we could use for viticulture experiments. In fact, there is a row of popcorn trees along the driveway. Wouldn’t it be interesting if they worked? Their allelopathic tendencies might be bad for grapes, but who knows?
I also have a young pecan tree, some black cherries, some sweet gums and even a black walnut that might work as supports for grape vines.
In the past I have experimented with pollarding a sweetgum tree as a support for climbing yams. Why not grapes?