of wild grapes

Trying a new grape in the back. It’s called Roger’s Red. It’s a hybrid between California wild grape (Vitis californica) and our everyday grape of commerce (Vitis vinifera).

I have already planted the wonderful Mojave wild grape (Vitis girdiana). It has lovely woolly gray-green leaves and the fruit is a small black grape. Any plant with wooly leaves like this is well-adapted to conserving moisture.

desert wild grape

desert wild grape

Foliage of the Roger’s Red is supposed to turn red in the fall. Also may not be the best eating grape since the skin is supposedly bitter.

Still, I imagine the ground squirrels and birds should love it…

And I will find something to do with the fruit.

Roger's red grape.

Roger’s red grape.

I have begun to see RSF as an experiential station as much as an educational center. The workshops are for drylands growing and for all kinds of re-skilling presentations. It’s all practical work.

The experimental stuff is my passion. Talking and writing about it brings me some joy.

I have experimented in the garden since I was nine years old in Ohio.

It’s in my blood.

High desert gardening has become more challenging over the years.

Is it because I’m getting older? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s all of it.

I’ve blogged a lot about climate change. I think that’s what’s happening. Remember the wind? I talk about the wind a lot. It’s a big factor out here.

One thing the wind does is dry out the plants.  And in the high desert, drier plants are not happier plants.

I used to count the plants and fruiting trees that died from our unpredictable hard freezes. I still have to do that. And now I have to count the wind-desiccated plants as well.

I’ve lost two young manzanitas this last year from either/or wind and cold. I’ve had to replace a fig due to the cold. A few other fruit trees in the orchard have been replaced.

I tried propagating trees from branches. You cut a smallish branch and peel back the bark. Then you coat it in rooting hormone and stick it into a pot with soil and vermiculite or peat moss. After several weeks little rootlets should begin to grow. Eventually you can plant these very young saplings in your orchard. I planned to give mine a good start and keep them in that structure I lovingly call a greenhouse (it’s not but that doesn’t stop me from calling it that).

This. Is. My. Greenhouse.

This. Is. My. Greenhouse.

Sadly the wind tore my plastic cover to ribbons over the winter and early spring. That can be fixed.

Sadder yet, ground squirrels ate every single one of my tree starts. See them poking up there in the background before they were devoured?  Apples and apricots and peaches.

One of my friends is a local rancher. She said her success rate with tree starts was about 50%. I felt happy to have a 60% rate of sprouting. Freakin’ ground squirrels took me down a notch. I’ll do it again in a month or so. Meanwhile I’m trying it with manzanita right now.

I’d like to try using our local desert wild almond, Prunus fasciculata as a rootstock for cultivated Prunus species, saving water in this dry climate.

Local desert wild almond.

Local desert wild almond.

RSF apricots.

RSF apricots.

Can you see these grafted?

I’ve heard there’s a wild plum in the Sierras that might work as a rootstock also. Maybe someday, that.

Meanwhile these desert and California grapes. If they flourish, I will incorporate them into a living windbreak for the patio.  Even if they appear to be doing marginally, I will plant some in to my patio windbreak. It’s a different microclimate and the soil is somewhat different. It will be worth a try.

Here’s the plan.

On the south and southeast sides, I want a cover/arbor with grapes and wisteria. I have plenty of commercial grapes and now the local grapes. I have multiple wisteria vines and they transplant very well.

One idea:  4X4s sunk into cement with lattice.

The other idea: use what’s on hand: t-posts woven with creosote branches to support grape and wisteria vines. This I could begin immediately and it would cost less.

Designing and building it will be very therapeutic…Not sure what I want do with the top but I’ll think of something.

This whole production could be turned into an art installation with plants.

Right here. This is the start of the green windbreak.

Right here. This is the start of the green windbreak.

What’s been growing in your world?

About rainshadowfarm

West Virginia hillbilly girl grown up. Grew up in northern Ohio. Farmer from birth. Working class academic. Practical agroecologist. Community educator. Single parent of eight. I also teach anthropology at a community college. I like this work and think it's worth doing and doing well. California community college students are some of the most incredible students I have ever known.
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