Growing Grapes in Oklahoma

 

Grapes are reasonably easy to cultivate. The richer the soil, the easier it is for the vine to grow and produce grapes. The warmer the climate, the more rapidly grapes ripen. The combination of these two factors produces a high yield of grapes with ripe flavors and low acid. As the grapes ripen in our vineyards, the acid and sugar content are constantly monitored to determine the best time to harvest. With eight different varieties, our harvest at Woodland Park begins in late July and continues into September. Each variety bears fruit of different size, color and flavor.

Our trellis system is based on Geneva Double Curtain system. Two trunks are brought up to a first wire about 48” from the ground. Each trunk is then tied to a second wire 32” apart horizontally and six feet high from the ground. The trunks (now called cordons) are tied on horizontal wires, extending opposite directions. Training grapes in this system is rigorous and requires constant attention to one and two year old plants. Exposure to sunlight enhances fruit quality and helps to fight fungal diseases. Benefits are more yield and better fruit quality.

The first vineyard planting was in year 2000 with 150 grafted vinifera grapes planted in the 3 acre Meadow Vineyard. The plants were growing well until an early freeze in October killed all but 6 rootstock. All plants were killed to the ground. In Spring of 2001 I planted 1000 grape plants including Riesling, Merlot and Chardonnay, all on own root. Additional Gewurtziminer plants were added the following year. These were grown from cuttings in our nursery bed. Since that year, we have planted two additional vineyards with both hybrids and vinifera with a total of 10 acres. Winter hardiness and early spring budding are two important characteristics of grape varieties that one should consider when planting grapes in Oklahoma. Two acres of blackberries, elderberries and an apple, pear, plum orchard round out our fruit production.

Drip irrigation from two excellent wells supply needed water. The rows are kept weed free and are fertilized on a regular basis.