Over the years, people have asked me questions about grapes and grape culture, and all too often I had to write long, drawn-out explanations because there wasn’t any one book I felt comfortable recommending: I had to give them a whole list, with each book covering a different aspect. But even that list didn’t cover everything. Some books offer lots of theory and cover commercial practices, but lack the up-close coverage that only comes with hands-on experience. Others focus on only one area of viticulture, such as growing grapes for wine. And while a few general garden books cover a few varieties of table grapes, no previous book since the days of U.P. Hedrick, near the start of the twentieth century, has covered table grapes with much more than a passing mention.
I bring to this book over thirty-five years experience growing grapes. I started as a young teenaged amateur, then took university classes in viticulture, worked for a nursery, and spent years growing and testing over two hundred varieties and observing many more, as well as breeding grapes. I’ve corresponded and met with grape growers and breeders in North America and elsewhere. This book is a distillation of my experiences, presented in ways I hope will be useful, easy to follow, and even entertaining for home growers and commercial growers alike.
This is not the ultimate grape book, just an attempt to assemble as much good experience and interesting information as possible in a form useful to the greatest number of people. As they gain experience, every grower will find ways of doing things at least somewhat differently from the book, which is as it should be. Grape growing is a science and also a living art, growing and changing all the time. But this book will give you a solid starting point to work from.
This book is also an attempt to show that grapes are much more adaptable than most people think. By using the right varieties and species, one can successfully grow grapes from the tropics to the Far North. And one thing particularly different about the book is the section on grape breeding, which is presented in a way that, I hope, will show the amateur that it can be a surprisingly enjoyable and rewarding pastime.
Techniques in this book may not always be the same ones found in the “classic” texts, but they have worked for me and for people with whom I’ve corresponded. And if there was information I couldn’t test personally, I got it from people I knew to be experienced, hands-on viticulturists, and, judged its validity, using my own training and background, against reports from a number of other sources.
Most of all, I hope the book “demystifies” grapes enough that more people will take the time to plant and enjoy this wonderful fruit.