When you think about growing fruit, you probably imagine trees and orchards. Plenty of fruits grow on trees, but there are also vine fruits. Vines, whether they produce fruits or not, are interesting and useful plants. Instead of growing out, vines grow up, which makes them an excellent choice for cramped garden spaces. If you are dreaming of a homestead but living in an urban setting, growing food from vines might be for you.
There are a few fruits that grow on vines that you may consider growing in your garden. Some are common, like different varieties of melon, while others are a little more exotic, such as kiwis and passion fruit. Depending on your climate and soil conditions, you may be able to grow these unusual but delicious fruits and enjoy a fresh, organic harvest each year.
Vines are not necessarily much different in terms of care than other plants. Each type of vine has its own individual requirements and needs. The main difference from other plants is that vines need a structure to climb. Before you pick out your plants and purchase them, make sure you have decided where they will grow and how they will climb. Some can climb right up the side of your house, while others will need a trellis. Some vines will grow prolifically and need a lot of space to grow. Consider each plant’s needs separately and have the right structures ready to go before you bring them home for planting.
Grapes are the classic vine fruit. They have been grown for millennia, mostly for producing wine. There are many different varieties of grapes, and you can grow them for eating (table grapes), for making wine (wine grapes), or just for decoration. They can grow on trellises, fences, and arbors and are a great way to create natural shade. Because there are so many kinds of grapes, you must do your homework to grow them successfully. Be sure that you understand the soil, watering, and weather conditions of the varieties that you choose before you begin. If you live in the eastern U.S., you are likely to find concord varieties, while in the west, European vinifera varieties are more common. Many things can go wrong when you try to grow grapes, so do your homework and keep the following in mind:
- Be patient. Your grapes will not produce fruit for the first couple of seasons.
- When planting your new grape vines, take care of the roots. Don’t let them dry out before you get them in the ground. You can keep them in a bucket of water for up to one full day. After that, plant them in the ground in a temporary location until you are ready to put them in their permanent place.
- A good location for your grapes is where other plants refuse to grow! Many varieties thrive in rocky, sandy soil, and on slopes of hills. They need good drainage, which is why a slope is a great place for them.
- Water your plants frequently during the first month after planting. They need to stay moist so that the roots can become established.
- Some grape vines need plenty of space. The roots from a single vine can spread three to six feet out from the base of the plant. Others, which are considered low-vigor vines, need to be closer together. Know your variety!
- Train your vines on the trellis or other structure. To ensure your grapes get maximum sunlight and do not get tangled, you have to help them grow correctly. This takes some effort, but is worthwhile.
- Pruning is also important for grape growth. In the spring, you need to remove about 75 percent of the last year’s growth to make sure you get maximum fruit production. The manner of pruning depends upon the variety.
If you live in a warm climate, you can grow this tasty vine fruit. If you get frosts, you can grow it in a container and bring it indoors in the winter. Passion fruits are small, purple, roundish globes with a gooey and seedy center that you eat. The fruits can also be juiced or used in baking and are very nutritious with plenty of vitamins.
A passion fruit vine needs full sun, so plant it in a sunny spot that is sheltered from winds. The soil should be light and well draining. Use compost in your soil to lighten it and to feed the plant. If your soil is heavy, you might also consider mixing in some sand. Passion fruit roots are shallow, so they require frequent watering, especially when flowering and fruiting.
Make sure your vine has something to climb and as it grows, train it to go upwards. You can do this by pinching off new growth that is heading off to the sides. Pruning is also essential for good production the following year. Prune in the fall only. If you give your passion fruit all the care it needs, you will be rewarded with fruit rather quickly. Your vine should produce within eight to nine months of planting. The fruits are ripe when they turn purple and easily come off the vine.
Another exotic plant for the U.S. is the kiwi, but if you live in zone 5 or higher, you can grow and enjoy this tasty vine fruit. Kiwi plants need full sun, but they will tolerate a small amount of light shade. They prefer soil that is slightly acidic. Good drainage is essential for kiwis. Many vines do not survive the first year because of poor drainage. They are also sensitive to fertilizer and will not tolerate too much. Use a layer of rich compost instead.
The kiwi vine is very vigorous, so have a strong, tall trellis or other structure for its growth. They can reach up to ten feet in height very quickly. For this reason, kiwi vines are great for creating shade. Train the main vine to grow straight up and clip off new growth once it reaches the top of your trellis. Clip off most of the side shoots, but let a few grow. Prune your vines each year in the spring. Harvest your kiwi fruits when you feel they may be ready. Let them sit to soften for a few days, and if they ripen well, you can harvest the rest.
Melons are a much more common vine fruit in the U.S. and can include honeydew, cantaloupe, muskmelon, honey rock, and many other varieties. Many of them prefer warmer weather, so if you live in a cooler climate, choose varieties with a short growing season. Melons prefer soil that is warm, well drained, and that has a pH that is close to neutral. Water your melon plants well until the fruits are tennis ball-sized. Depending on your climate, you may need to start seeds indoors to keep them warm or cover them with fabric if planted outside.
Although melons grow on vines, it is not necessary to grow them on a trellis or other support structure. If they lay on the ground, the fruits are more resistant to rot and insects than other vine fruits are. They are vulnerable however, so if you grow them on the ground, consider raising the fruits up onto wooden blocks or overturned pots. If you grow your melons upwards, provide slings to hold the fruits in position. Old pantyhose work very well for this purpose. Your melons will be ready to harvest when they are easily plucked from the stem.
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