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Ask a Master Gardener for May 4, 2014

Q: Can I grow grapes in Duluth?

A: Yes, with care. Not all varieties will make it through our winters, but there are several, some developed by the University of Minnesota, that would be good choices. Bluebell and Valiant are hardy and good for eating fresh or for making juice or jelly, but they don’t make good wine. Beta is an old, hardy variety good for jelly, but many people think the newer varieties taste better. St. Croix, Frontenac and Louise Swenson are fairly hardy wine varieties, but they will need winter protection. Types of grapes that you buy in the grocery store, such as Thompson Seedless or Concord, won’t survive here.

Grapes need full sun and a lot of heat to ripen. Plant the vines about six feet apart in an area that isn’t underwater in the spring. A south wall or a south-facing area sheltered from wind is ideal. Remove all of the canes except the strongest, and trim that to two strong buds.

Common diseases such as downy mildew and botrytis can be controlled by buying resistant varieties, planting them in full sun, and cleaning up the dropped leaves in the fall. Birds can be a problem. If so, cover the fruit with netting.

Grapes are very sensitive to even the fumes of 2,4-D, a common dandelion killer used in many weed-n-feeds. If you, or even your neighbor, use it, your grapes may be seriously damaged or even die.

More information on growing grapes, including pruning and training, can be found at extension yard-garden/fruit/ growing-grapes-for- home-use/ and