Already many gardeners-Petersburgers are trying grow grapes on their acres, but the bulk of the owners of six acres are still frightened by this occupation and even amazed: how this southern culture can grow and bear fruit in our cold and capricious climate.
Therefore, I want to talk about my first not entirely successful, and now positive experience. It started in 1997. At the exhibition "Russian Farmer" I bought four varieties of grapes. These were rooted annual shoots from the previous year. The desire to plant grapes in my garden was great, so with enthusiasm I began to thoroughly prepare the site in the sunniest place.
I planted my seedlings in a well-fertilized raised bed with good drainage and tended them all summer, admiring the rising vines. In the fall, I cut it into two buds, covered it with spruce branches and a wooden house of two boards. The grapes overwintered perfectly, because was additionally covered with a thick snow blanket.
At the end of April, having opened all the heaters, I found two strong shoots on each vine that had already begun to grow, which I gradually accustomed to light and, finally, opened them to free growth. Alas, after 15 days spring frosts came, and then we had to worry. In order not to break young fragile shoots, we installed arcs along which we strengthened lutrasil in two layers, and a film on top.
I was ready to sit myself with a candle under this shelter, so as not to lose my treasures. Care and increased attention to the new culture were ensured this season as well, but only in the third summer, in May, I found 3-5 long-awaited flowering brushes on all varieties. All summer I was grooming, cherishing my little vineyard, and in mid-August we picked the not yet fully ripe, but already sweet berries of the first grape, but only one variety Malengr early, and the rest of the harvest never came.
They remained hard and sour-bitter right up to the snow. Therefore, after holding them for a couple of years, swearing at unscrupulous sellers, uprooted the vine and threw it away. It's a pity, of course, for the work and lost time, but a negative result is also a result. And over the years, I managed to get acquainted with other gardeners who acquired planting material from reliable sources, with early and super-early ripening periods.
I attended lectures for winegrowers. I bought a book by R.E. Loiko "Northern grapes", and some experience of his own appeared. Now we have 17 in the garden grape varieties: Early Melengr, Aleshenkin, Delight, Muscat Delight, Ilya Muromets, Platovsky, August violet, Early violet, Moscow stable, Nina's Muscat, Laura, Crystal, Rodina, Russian Korinka (without seeds), Dvietsky-2, Early Russian, E 1475 ...
Nine of them grow in open ground, and I planted them no longer in the sunniest, but rather low place, as before, but at the highest (our site is on a slope) along the neighboring wooden fence, which covers the western, northern and part of the eastern side protecting my vineyard from the prevailing northwest winds. True, this fence also covers the much needed morning eastern sun, but the southern side is mine.
In this part of the site it is rather dry, and therefore a filling well was made for each bush (a cut five-liter canister dug into the ground, filled with stones so that the earth would not squeeze it). Through such a well, you can quickly water and feed directly to the roots, leaving the surface of the earth dry.
Grape care - it's not an easy business, but interesting, and most importantly, effective - starting from the third year, we always have a harvest, and with an increasing one. True, the yield will increase if you master the correct pruning throughout the summer (green operations), and most importantly - in the fall, before shelter for the winter.
And I also think that the biggest difficulty with growing grapes in our area - this is to protect it from spring frosts, and not the winter period, as many mistakenly think. After all, almost every year we have a warm end of April, and the grapes, waking up, begin to grow already under winter shelter, and here you need to be on the lookout.
The nights are still cold, and the sun is sunny during the day, and I just want to raise the shelter, but this must be done very carefully. And by the time of the frost in May, have arcs, covering material ready, and, of course, be on the site. If this is not possible, then do not open the heaters until the end of the frost. Out of 17 varieties of my grapes, 14 are already harvesting, and this is so good.
Since August, clusters of yellow, green, lilac and blue colors begin to ripen on the bushes of grapes, each with its own taste, and this is a very pleasant reward for the work. Our family really liked all this, and we decided to accelerate the ripening by a couple of weeks and extend its preservation by two, or even three weeks. For this, the husband built a greenhouse specifically for the grapes. The first two or three years I planted there and peppers with tomatoes, and now a vine of 8 varieties occupies almost the entire space.
It cannot be otherwise: when we water the peppers and tomatoes, the humidity in the greenhouse increases, and the grapes do not need this, because there are varieties prone to cracking berries. In 2006, our family of five ate enough of their grapes, even made some wine and jam for the first time. I hope that with my story I did not frighten, but interest gardeners, and the ranks of winegrowers in the Northwest will noticeably replenish.
Larisa Egorova, amateur gardener,
Photo by I. Egorova