Native to the southeastern United States and cultured for more than 400 years, muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia) have been eaten as fresh fruit, were preserved and dried by Native Americans, and were grown by the early Spanish settlers in the 1500s for muscadine wine.
Often generalized as “scuppernongs” (actually a specific cultivar of muscadine grape) today, most muscadines do well in our area, enjoying our warm, humid climate. Some cultivars especially well suited to East Texas are ‘Sugargate,’ ‘Fry,’ ‘Fry Seedless,’ ‘Scuppernong,’ ‘Carlos’ and ‘Higgins.’
Regardless of whether you prefer one of the bronze varieties or one of the beautiful black cultivars with its fruity aroma and light, sweet taste, the muscadine grape is an excellent choice for making jellies, pies,…and yes-wines!
Before selecting your grapes, it’s important to know whether your variety is self-fruiting or whether it will require another variety planted nearby for pollination.
Muscadines require full sun, well-drained soil, and a soil pH around 6.5. Plant 10 to 20 feet apart after the threat of frost is past in spring. Trellising can be as simple as a single wire positioned five to six feet above ground, or as elaborate as your imagination allows.
As with any new planting, you’ll want to know your soil before you put your new muscadines into the ground. If you haven’t performed a soil test in the last three years or so, now is a good time to do it. Soil tests are easy and inexpensive to perform, and kits are available through your Texas Cooperative Extension.
For more information about growing muscadine grapes as well as many other useful topics related to your home garden, go to http://extension-horticulture.tamu.edu.
Jan Stella, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service