Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) is a wild grape species native to the southeastern United States. The wild grape has been improved into a number of fruiting cultivars that can be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 10. Muscadine cultivars require full sun and regular irrigation to bear fruit. If these and other growing conditions are met, muscadines will begin fruiting two or three years after planting.
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Soils and Nutrients
Muscadines grow well in both sandy and clay soils. At planting time, add organic matter in the form of compost to improve drainage and provide a base of nutrients for the establishing plant. Keep the area around the vines free of heavy weed growth that would compete for nutrients and water. Apply a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer monthly during the growing season at a rate of one-quarter pound per vine to stimulate vine establishment and fruiting.
Muscadines require regular irrigation to establish quickly and begin fruiting. Water deeply once per week in the absence of a soaking rain. Irrigation will speed growth, but good drainage is also important. If water stands around the vines after a rain, the plants will grow poorly, and are unlikely to bear fruit. Plant on a slight mound in poorly drained areas to ensure soils are kept moist, but not waterlogged.
In the wild, male and female muscadine flowers are on separate plants. Many fruiting cultivars are self-fertile, eliminating the need for pollination by a second variety in order to bear fruit. A few prominent cultivars do require such pollination, however. These include "Fry," "Higgins," Scuppernong," and "Jumbo." For pollination to occur, the two varieties should be planted next to each other if possible, or no more than 50 feet apart.
Training and Pruning
Like all grapes, muscadine vines require some form of trellis structure to grow on. Training and pruning young vines is necessary to get them established and bearing fruit at a young age. A commonly used trellis is simply a 9-gauge steel wire strung tautly between two wooden posts. One primary trunk can be trained up each post and two main branches allowed to grow along each wire. Prune off all other growth during the first two winters. This establishes the long-term structure of the vine, making it ready to bear fruit in the third season.