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Great grapes alive

For quality table grapes, match the growing season to the variety

You can grow your own table grapes and enjoy a delicious harvest in as little as 150 frost-free days in some regions of Oregon. And even if your growing season is shorter, cold-hardy cultivars (varieties) and proper care also will produce fruit that has time to ripen.

A new publication by Oregon State University Extension (EC 1639) 'Growing Table Grapes in Oregon,' can help you choose a cultivar best suited to where you live. It is online at http://bit.ly/OSUESec1639.

'Although grapes can be grown throughout Oregon, they are considered temperate zone plants,' said Bernadine Strik, an OSU Extension berry crops professor. 'They need a cool winter to meet chilling requirements and a warm growing season - 150 to 180 frost-free days - to develop and mature a crop.'

'In the cooler climate of the coast and Willamette Valley, avoid choosing late-ripening varieties,' Strik said. 'In eastern Oregon, choose only cold-hardy varieties and manage vines to reduce risk of winter cold injury. If the growing season is too short, the fruit may be of poor quality and low in sugar content at harvest. Also, the vines may not mature properly in the fall, leading to possible winter injury.

'In many ways, grapevines are easy to grow,' Strik said. 'But you need to give the vines very good care to produce high quality fruit. The hardest parts of grape production are pruning and training.' The Extension publication illustrates how to prune well and properly, based on an understanding of grape growth.

Grapevines require several years to produce the first harvested crop, and they normally do not reach full production until the fifth or sixth year. Grape plants live for 50 to 100 years, if you care for them properly.

'It's relatively easy to propagate a favorite vine but well-established plants cannot be transplanted,' Strik said. 'It's important to consider carefully both where you will plant and how you will prepare the site before you plant.'