Muscadine Q & A
Q: I am thinking about planting muscadine grapes. Can you give me more information on how to get started?
A: Check out the North Carolina Muscadine Grape Association. You may want to become a member, attend their annual meeting in August, and discuss your plans with successful muscadine growers.
You should also read the Muscadine Grape Production Guide for North Carolina.
Q: What should I keep in mind when choosing a site for growing muscadines?
A: There are several important qualities of a muscadine growing site:
- Internal soil drainage – water should not stand on the site after a normal rain. Generally speaking, if tobacco has done well on the site, muscadine grapes should also do well.
- Good air flow – especially in the piedmont where cold damage is a concern, plant on an elevated site, at least 50 feet away from woods or other obstructions that would block air movement.
- Field shape – you want to have adequate row length for equipment efficiency and reduced end-structure investment. Also, north-south row orientation is preferred.
- Soil pH and fertility – a soil test should be your first step. Contact your Cooperative Extension office for additional information. Lime is usually necessary to raise the pH to 6.5.
Q: Which cultivars should I plant?
A: That depends on what you plan to do with the grapes. If you plan to grow grapes to sell to a winery then you should discuss your plans with them up front to make sure they are interested in them. They will tell you which cultivars to plant.
The most common muscadine cultivar grown commercially in North Carolina is Carlos. It is the standard processing cultivar (wine and juice). The second most important wine grape is Noble.
If you plan to grow grapes for the fresh market (U-pick, roadside stands, farmers’ markets, wholesale marketing to chain stores, etc.): the most important fresh market cultivar is currently Nesbitt. Depending on your location and market you may also wish to plant Supreme, Black Fry, Summit, Scarlett, Fry, Early Fry, Pam, or Late Fry. As always, know your market and what you’ll be able to sell before you plant.
If your site is in a cooler area of the state then you should focus on cold-tolerant cultivars such as Carlos, Magnolia, Nesbitt, Noble, and Sterling.
Something else to keep in mind: muscadine cultivars may be either female or perfect-flowered. If you choose a female cultivar you will also need to plant a perfect-flowered cultivar within 25 feet for pollination purposes.
Visit the Cultivars page for more information about each cultivar.