It's gotta be. There's no two ways around it. Somehow I've managed to grow grapes.
The internets can be damned helpful, and damned annoying at times. I've searched for about half an hour now for information specific to growing Thompson Seedless, which is what this plant is. Specifically, how to keep the right combination of leaves, canes and clusters.
Okay. Let's back up.
Three years ago I was in Lowe's and saw grape seedlings for sale. I remembered my father growing Concorde grapes when I was a kid, and how incredibly sweet and good they were, so I got a wild hair. I bought four different types, got home and now I realise I got lucky in finding some good, clear information on how to build arbors for grapes on the internet, which I've long since lost. I built the arbors and settled back to wait.
You see, the trick with grapes is that they're SLOW. They're the bonsai of gardening, involving a lot of careful pruning, shaping and training. Everything I read says not to expect any fruit until the fourth year, at which time you'll have trained up a single central cane with four runners: two to a side, two about two feet off the ground and two about five feet off the ground. That's where the similarities stop, though. Everyone else seems to start branching off at this point (hah! pun!) and going in many different directions. One site tells you to do this, one site says never to do that, do THIS instead. Still another wants to tell you about his massive, sprawling, wildly successful grape farm in South Africa and sets you up to buy his book on How To Grow Your Own Ginormous Grapes In South Africa! Worse, my carefully-saved printout on how to build arbors and train grapes, I noticed last year says way at the bottom "Caution: this doesn't apply to Thompson Seedless grape vines after the first two years." And then goes on to NOT tell me how to find information on how to grow them, here at Year Three, when I'm showing grapes a whole year early.
I seem to be a year ahead of schedule, and one cane shy. My plant refused to grow a good cane on the lower right side, so I've got three canes and a five-inch long growth spurt on that side that I'm hoping I can train into a nice cane. Last week I glanced over at the little hillside that the Irrelephant Vineyard is growing on (I lost one the first year so it's three vines now, of three different varietals) and saw nothing but dark brown canes. This morning I've got a Thompson Seedless that has taken matters into it's own canes and is covered in huge green leaves, new canes everywhere, and clusters of grapes so tiny they look like fat green angels dancing on the points of pencils.
And I don't know what to do!
Do I need to carefully count the clusters and pull off anything over X number? Do I need to stop trimming canes? Start trimming more? Do I need to sing to it? Fertilize it? NOT fertilize it? Maddening! I'm so cornfused.
I think I might just do what my father did--let it grow however the hell it wants to. When my brother finally got into the remains of my father's garden to clean it up years after the Alzheimer's had rendered him incapable, my brother found Concorde grape vines with trunks like small oak trees and vines that carefully wended and wormed their way some twenty five or so feet in all directions. The roots, I'm sure, reached all the way down into Hell and were stealing water from the sinner's mouths. He said everywhere you looked there were thick clusters of lush purple-black fruit hanging down, like a vintner's wet dream. He then pulled, dug, and burned them all down, turning the plot into a place to put his mobile home while he built his house.
I'm safe, though. There's no room to park a trailer on the little hillock that is Irrelephant Vineyards.