The Manual of Southern Know-How

Mastering Muscadines

You can add no more Southern a fruit to your yard than the thick-skinned, juicy muscadine grape. Here are three tips for growing your own

Photo: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA SCS. 1991.

1. Pick the Right Spot

First, purchase a “self-fertile” hardy cultivar such as Magnolia, Carlos, or Sterling from your favorite nursery, says Sara Spayd, a retired North Carolina extension specialist. In the spring, plant vines ten feet apart in a sunny area of the yard that isn’t bone-dry but drains well.

2. Trellis, Train, Trim

“At older farmhouses, you’ll see a four-post arbor with grapes growing around and over the top,” Spayd says. Trellises also work. Train and coax the vines along the structure, and hack back the fruiting branches come winter. Muscadines must be aggressively trimmed while dormant so they produce fruit the next year.

3. Be Very, Very Patient

It might take three years before your plant bears grapes of consequence. The wait is worth it—in addition to turning them into jams and wines, you can enjoy muscadines fresh. “Go for the juice,” Spayd advises. “Pop the skin, suck out the pulp, and spit out the seeds.”

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