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Ask a Master Gardener: Yes, you can grow grapes in Northland

It’s possible to grow grapes for fresh eating, for jelly and for wine here.

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Q: I just moved to northern Minnesota from southern Minnesota, and I’m wondering whether there are any varieties of grapes you can grow here.

A: Yes, there are. It’s possible to grow grapes for fresh eating, for jelly and for wine here. You’ll want to choose the site where you plant them carefully, choose a variety appropriate for your zone, and keep the plants pruned.

The University of Minnesota develops and tests grape varieties that will grow in the north. It has introduced a number of wine and table grapes. You can find a list of varieties the university has tested at extension.umn.edu/fruit/growing-grapes-home-garden#grape-varieties-for-northern-gardens-980960.

To decide which of these to grow, you’ll need to figure out what USDA hardiness zone you live in. Most of northern Minnesota is in Zone 3, but along the lake we’re in Zone 4. You can see a map by googling “USDA hardiness Minnesota.”

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One table grape recommended for Zone 3 is Bluebell. If you’re in Zone 4, you have more options, including Bluebell, Edelweiss and Swenson. Another grape that is not on that list, but is billed as hardy to Zone 3, is Valiant, which I’ve successfully grown in my Duluth yard.

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Be sure to plant your grapes in full sun, and provide support for the vines, such as a trellis or a fence. They need good air circulation to prevent disease, so it’s important to keep them pruned. You may also need to protect them from birds when the grapes are ripening.

Be careful with lawn chemicals if you’re growing grapes. They are highly susceptible to the kinds of herbicides people sometimes apply to lawns to kill dandelions and creeping Charlie. Those herbicides can vaporize and drift. My grapevine up and croaked quite suddenly after my neighbor’s lawn was sprayed.

Written by U of M Extension Master Gardeners in St. Louis County. Send questions to  features@duluthnews.com .

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