Gardening with Muscadine Grapes
Vitis rotundifolia, the first native grape species to be cultivated in North America, is one of the top sustainable crops that can be grown north Florida. Muscadines prefer deep, fertile soils, which is why they are commonly found growing along river banks. They are easy to grow throughout Florida, and are highly tolerant of disease and insect pressure — making them easy to grow without pesticides. Muscadines rarely sustain frost injury as their bloom time is late April.
The majority of wild muscadines produce dark fruit although others, known as scuppernongs, bear bronze fruit. While wild muscadines are dioecious (requiring a male and female plant for cross-pollination), many self-fertile cultivars are available, and often yield 40% – 50% fruit more than the female cultivars. Cultivar selection will depend on whether you are growing for fresh market or to process into wine, juice, or jelly. To learn more about cultivars that have been extensively trialed, visit: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs100.
Muscadines require full sun and a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5. They are adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions but prefer loamy sands. It is important to avoid planting in low-lying areas due to poor air circulation and water drainage, which increase the chances of waterlogging and frost injury.
The proper time to plant bare-root vines is during the dormant months of December through February. When provided adequate irrigation, container-grown vines can be planted any time of the year. As muscadines are shallow rooted and do not compete well for nutrients, weed control is extremely important for vine growth and productivity.
Depending on the cultivar, muscadines can be harvested from late July to late September. Methods include picking bunches by hand, shaking berries loose from the vine onto a tarp, or using mechanical harvesters. Multiple harvests may be required and schedule varies according to cultivar. Plan to harvest early or late in the day to best preserve fruit quality.
Many prefer to squeeze out the inner flesh of the grape and discard the skins, however, all muscadine grape skin is edible and is where the antioxidants are found!
The Muscadine Grape: www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs100