Growing Grape Vines in Southern England

Growing GrapesHalf my family live in Northern Cyprus, and when I was a child I used to go and visit for the school holidays, six weeks, every summer. I used to stay in the town of Güzelyurt which is famous for its citrus farming and if you go there you will see huge groves of oranges and lemons, but there is one other fruit you will see, not commercially, but in family homes…. grapes!

Grape vines don’t need much to grow, just earth, plenty of sun, good drainage, and very little water so it’s no wonder that most homes grow them as you not only get grapes but you can also use the leaves to make dolma/dolmades which are stuffed vine leaves. How cool is that?

Since then I’ve wanted to have a grape vine of my own but obviously I don’t live in Cyprus, I live in Southern England, and we have a lot less sun, but that wasn’t going to stop me and so in August 2009 I bought my first grape vines!

Boskoop Glory grapes

I bought these (Boskoop Glory – a dark dessert grape) from the local market for a couple of quid each and the house I lived in only had a courtyard garden so they didn’t grow much more than this, a few died, and so I was left with just one vine when I moved house in 2011. It stayed in a pot until 2013 when I was finally able to plant it in the ground at (another) new house and that is really where it kicked off!

Last summer (2014) it had a massive growth spurt, provided lots of leaves for stuffed vine leaves, but still no fruit. Maybe my plants were duds? Maybe I didn’t have the right climate? Maybe I just had to wait a little longer? But then in 2015….

The first sign.. (11th May)

grapes calyptra

You see those little buds? They’re called calypta, a fused cap of petals which protect the pollen and stamen,and this is the first step to getting grapes, but how far along the journey would we go?

Flowering (24th June)

grapes flowering

Who knew that grapes flowered? Well they do and here they are waiting to be fertilised. If all these get pollinated then I’d be in for a bumper crop.

Small fruit (3rd July)

small grape fruit

The question was whether these small fruit would develop further…

Grapes! (29th August)

grapes 3

Over July and August I’ve been keeping a keen eye on the grapes to see how they are doing and if any turn from green to a dark purple, and ladies and gentleman, as you can see, we’re getting there! I have to admit I’ve eaten a couple and whilst a little sour, they do taste like grapes and with a little more sunshine I’ll have a bumper crop of sweet grapes!

If you want to know the science behind this then the change in colour is due to the chlorophyll in the berry skin being replaced by anthocyanins (red wine grapes) and carotenoids (white wine grapes) and in a process known as engustment, the berries start to soften as they build up sugar (thank you Wikipedia.)

The vine in all it’s glory

To end with here’s the vine taking over and with my cat Ellie enjoying the sunshine.

grape vine

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