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How to Grow Muscadine Grapes (Mustang Grapes)

muscadine grapes

These hardy native American grapes come in varieties that are great for eating, canning, wine making and jams. Here are some tips on how to grow muscadine grapes.

When the first settlers came to America there were already grapes growing along the creeks and rivers of the New World. These grapes, unlike the ones they were familiar with in Europe had never been domesticated. While they were super hardy they were not as pleasant to eat, yet could be used for jellies, juice and wine.  Muscadine grapes are also known as Mustang grapes in some parts of the country.

Over the years muscadine grape enthusiasts such as Bill Ison developed hybridized varieties that included seedless, higher sugar content, edible, and wine varieties. Now hybridized mustang or muscadine grapes are available that rival European grapes for flavor and use in wine making.

How To Grow Muscadine Grapes. Soil

Muscadine grapes produce best in full sun in well-drained soil with good water holding capacity. Sites with good elevation and cold air drainage are preferred because they are less prone to late spring freezes. If full sun is not possible then Morning sunlight is most important.

Muscadine grapes require a pH level around 6.5. You should have your soil tested in wintertime, as it takes 3 months for lime to raise the pH level, to ensure the best soil for highest growth and productions. If pH is too low a lime application may be necessary. Sometimes the ripening season on muscadines will be delayed as much as 3 weeks when the pH pf the soil is below 6.0. Limey soil produces sweeter muscadine fruit, as a rule.

Muscadine grapes are shallow rooted with most of the feeder roots in the top half inch of soil. To avoid damage to these roots, cultivate shallowly and only as frequently as necessary to control weeds. Frequent clean cultivation is necessary the first two years for young muscadine grape vines. Remove grass and weeds from around the plants so that growth will be vigorous the first year.

Longevity Of Muscadine Grape Vines

Muscadine grapes can produce fruit for over 20 years  or more with proper care. They will start bearing fruit the 2nd to 3rd year in the ground and will reach maximum production their 4th year. Usually between 15 and 20 years they are more prone to cold damage and will not produce as much as younger vines. Generally self-fertile varieties will produce 75 to 100 lbs of fruit per vine and female vines will produce 50 to 80 lbs per vine.

Pollination Of Muscadine Grapes

Female muscadine vines require pollination by a self-fertile variety. We recommend planting a self-fertile variety within a 50 feet radius of each female. Usually in large plantings we plant 3 rows of females and then 1 row of self-fertile pollinators. This provides ample pollination. On single row plantings you may space your pollinators throughout the row. (The more pollinators you have the more your fruit yield will increase on your female plants)

Planting Of Muscadine Grape Vines

Muscadine grapes produce their greatest concentration of fruit near the trunk, so we recommend planting the vines approx. 12-16 inches from the trellis posts.

Layered plants require a trench like hole large enough for the roots to spread out and not be cramped. Make  your holes at least 8 to 12 inches deep. Space plants 20 feet apart for maximum fruit production but no closer than 12 to 15 feet

Potted muscadine grape vines require a hole dug straight down no more than 10 inches deep. Do not use hole digger as this will pack the dirt around the edges of the hole and the roots will have difficulty spreading through the dirt when they begin to grow.

* Place the muscadine grape vine in the hole with the roots about 3 inches below the ground.
* Fill the hole half full of soil.
* Pack the dirt and add enough water to make soil pack around roots.
* Then fill to ground level.

* Don't add fertilizer in the planting hole and don't fertilize when planting.

In late fall and winter back the dirt up 8 to 12 inches high around plants to protect them from freezing.

Developing The Vine:

Constant attention during the first 2 growing seasons following planting is essential. Vines generally die the first year of planting if certain measures are not taken. The following areas are the most important to your vine:

Water is essential for the growth of the plant. Keep the top 2 inches of soil moist

A properly trained vine has a trunk, two arms and fruiting spurs. The first two years of training are devoted to developing the trunks and arms. In the spring following planting, each plant will begin growing and may produce 3 or 4 shoots. When these shoots are about 1 foot long, select the strongest and remove the others. Tie a piece of durable string such as a binder's twine to the overhead wire and bend a piece of wire bent into a 9 shape and place in the ground beside the trunk. It should be tight enough so that as the new shoots grow it can be twined around the string to form a straight trunk for the plant. Long tomato stakes may also be used and the vines fastened to the stake with cloth or plastic tying ribbon.

While you are training the main shoot, pinch developing shoots in axils of the leaves of the young trunk. don't, however, remove the leaves from the trunk. When the shoot reaches 2-3 inches below the wire, pinch the top of the trunk. Let the two buds develop into the two arms and train each arm in opposite directions.

Fertilization For Muscadines:

Use 10-10-10 fertilizers on the following schedule:

1st Year: April 1 to May 1, June 1 to July 1
Apply 1/4 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer 12 inches out from the plant in a complete circle

(Try Ison's Custom Muscadine Fertilizer)

April 15 to May 15, June 15 to July 15
Apply 1/4 pound of Calcium Nitrate.

2nd Year April 1 to May 1, June 1 to July 1
Apply 1/2 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer 12 inches out from the plant in a complete circle

April 15 to May 15, June 15 to July 15
Apply 1/2 pound of Calcium Nitrate. This will add nitrogen to the soil which will increase growth.
If unable to find Calcium Nitrate you may use Ammonia Nitrate but only use 1/4 pound per plant.

3RD Year Use 3 lbs of 10-10-10 on May 1st

4th Year Fertilize as needed depending on growth of your vines

Fertilizer Tips: 1) Do not place fertilizer in the hole when planting your vines.
2) Muscadines need an average of 3 to 4 feet of growth vertically each growing season. If growth is less increase fertilizer the next year.
If growth is more then decrease fertilization the next year.
3) Never use manure, sawdust, pine straw or cottonseed mote in or around plants.
4) Never use 2-4-5T in or around vineyard.

Growing Information & Tips:

1) Muscadines are considered disease resistant, but there are several diseases that can be a problem. There are also things that you can do to help decrease the chances of disease.

Once your vines begin producing, make sure that you knock off all fruit prior to the winter months to decrease chances of disease. Berries that are left on the vine over winter can cause problems in the spring. Black Rot is a common disease of muscadines. In early spring the fungus can infect new growth as soon as it appears or later in the growing season. The signs of the fruit infection are dry, black scabby spots. Leaf infections appear as tiny reddish brown spots on the upper surface. The spots enlarge to 1/4 inch or more in diameter and turns dark brown. A ring of black fungus spores develops near the edge of the brown area.

Ripe Rot is another common disease. It over winters on stem lesions and on mummified berries left on the vine. It primarily damages the fruit but can affect the vines and tendrils. Symptoms on mature fruit appear as somewhat bleached fruit or water soaked spots.

To help decrease disease on your vines, we recommend using the fungicide Captan on your vines. We recommend two tablespoons of Captan per gallon of
water. Do not start spraying until the leaves on the vines reach the size of a half dollar. You can spray your vines every two weeks up until two weeks prior
to picking your fruit. Sometimes you may have problems with insects. Use Sevin Dust or Safer soap at the recommended dose. Also use a little dish detergent as a surfactant to help the mixture stay on the leaves.

For more detailed information on growing Muscadines we recommend the book All About Muscadines, Blueberries & Blackberries by Bill Ison
95 pages - $7.95. available at

Main reasons that Muscadine vines die during their first year:
1) Lack of water during growing season or roots drying out prior to planting.
2) Placing fertilizer too close to the vine.
3) Killing plants with herbicides
4) Cold Damage

Sources for this article: Isons Nursery

They stock the largest variety of Muscadine grapes on the internet. 




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