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Grapes in the Ground

Sow a seed, feed it, and water it and it will grow into a plant like the one it came from. That’s a no-brainer, at least on paper. A cool feature of nature is that a piece taken from an established planted can be put into the ground and eventually grow into a mature tree or bush.

Grapevines and serviceberry bushes are both good candidates for this process. Especially the latter case where the goal is usually to plant several vines for an arbor or even more so if they intended for later grafting for eating or wine grapes the cost savings of free rootstock is significant.

There is a sort of orthodoxy to the method for planting cuttings. They need to be cut in mid- to late-winter when the tree, bush, or vine is entirely dormant, stored in a cold (but not too cold) place, trimmed in a certain way, and then treated with rooting hormone. Or so we’re told.

I had a bottle labeled “root stimulator” full of blue liquid. I dipped the cuttings in a cap-ful of this for several seconds directly before planting. It was belatedly pointed out to me that rooting hormone is different at least in that it usually comes in powder form.

For the serviceberry cuttings I followed standard procedure fairly closely. I took cuttings from what looked like bud-heavy, new growth in late February. I stored these ungainly sticks in a cold, fairly dry place and moved them to the fridge when April’s slightly-warmer weather rolled in.

We didn’t make it across the ice to the island last winter so I had to wait for spring to take grape cuttings. During our first weekend up this year for Easter weekend I used a well-cleaned (with rubbing alcohol) folding knife to cut two three-foot lengths from the wild grape vines that grow vigorously behind the wood oven we built last summer. None of the buds had broken but they had begun to swell and as far as I can tell the vines probably weren’t in total dormancy.

I don’t know what’s happening below ground but the visible results couldn’t be more different. The grape vine’s buds have broken and leaves are starting to unfurl. All four look eminently healthy. On the other hand, the two serviceberry cuttings have done nothing but make me look like an esoteric weirdo who goes around planting dead twigs. Results for this experiment definitely aren’t final but so far it seems to be another indication that the rules of gardening are made to be broken.

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  1. Correen says:

    I love breakin’ the rules to see it all workin’ out…it will be nice to see how it all turns out. I’ll be over for a bottle of whatever you create…once all is said and done ;)

  2. foodwithlegs says:

    Thanks for commenting, Correen. At this point the vines will be great just for a little shade but grafting on vinifera is always a possibility.

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