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ASK THE EXPERTS: Growing Organic Grapes in Ottawa (Plus, Video)

Every now and then, we at ChelseaGreen.com will get a question from a reader that, well, just stumps us. We’ll dissect the head-scratcher, research, debate, and finally, just before full-blown panic and its inevitable counterpart, violence, set in, one of us will step back from the abyss and remember that we can just contact one of our expert authors. Crisis averted, we rest easy in the knowledge that we’ve held our demons at bay, just one more day.
I have been researching the potential for establishing a commercial venture growing table grapes in greenhouses on land I own near Ottawa, Ontario. Do you think such a business would be viable and do you know of any information sources that would help me besides your book? Thanks very much, Al Stewart
We asked author and organic viticulture expert Lon Rombough, The Grape Grower himself, to sink his teeth into this one. Here’s his response:
Hello Alan: The British are the main source of information on actual techniques of growing grapes in greenhouses, and Alan Rowe has put out a very good book on the subject. It’s on my website. I don’t know how viable it would be for commercial use, though. As it happens, I’m working with a man here who is going to grow grapes in poly tunnels to see if he can produce fruit out of season, or at least earlier than it would be available outdoors. There are so many variables, the process would have a steep learning curve. Heat costs, for instance. Do you use heat and grow cold tender grapes, or use hardier grapes? That is, tender grapes might need heat through the winter to survive, while hardy types might not. But you might need heat to start the vines growing early, then rely on solar heat the rest of the season. See what I mean? Lots of variables. And that doesn’t even take marketing into account. Where to sell them to get the highest return? Restaurants? Stores? Farmer’s Markets? Food for thought. —Lon J. Rombough
So there you have it, Alan. Hope this leads you in a “fruitful” direction! Ha ha! (I am so sorry.) Be sure to check out this clip from Ron’s new grape pruning video:


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