[NAFEX] Rhubarb under grapevines

kathryn stout kathrynwrites at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 15 22:40:01 EDT 2003

I planted a clump of rhubarb not exactly under my
grapevine, but between the post supporting it and a
blueberry bush. The rhubarb got shaded out and
eventually disappeared. No sun, no photosynthesis, no
energy for building stalks and crowns. I suppose
competition from mint, and the fact that I tended to
walk through that spot didn't help either. 

I think this rhubarb probably got plenty of compost.
At the beginning when I first planted my grapes I gave
them each a wheelbarrow (5 cu. ft.) load of compost
each spring. After a few years I decided the Concord
was plenty vigorous enough and stopped feeding it. I
also took out my Reliance (decided the flavor was
uninteresting) and replaced it with a new Canadice. I
didn't feed that new vine much either, if at all, and
it sat there, hardly growing, even showing light green
or yellowish leaves, until I gave it a whole
wheelbarrow load of compost. That season it started to
take off. So. Maybe younger vines need more, to get
established, and maybe some varieties are naturally
more vigorous (and need less feeding, or less N) than
others. It may also depend on soil.

 My soil is sandy loam for about 1 foot, under that
pure sand and gravel as far down as anyone knows.
Water goes through it like a sieve. It takes a lot of
compost and mulch to hold water--and nitrogen--for
most plants, except those that thrive on drought and
poor soil. (I would not put grapes in that category
although Concord...has enough of the wild N. American
grape in it that ??? Before I planted my grapes I had
a "weedy" wild grape growing there. There is still a
little piece of it that tries to come up, under my
Concord vine. There are huge wild grapes that grow up
the forest trees, north of my garden--in the same
soil, with a great deal of leaf mold. Their fruit
isn't worth eating though. )
I wouldn't plant rhubarb under grapes--unless you are
trying to get rid of the rhubarb, and you don't care
if it grows.
I do have a patch of bloodroot I planted that thrives,
under my Concord vine. It gets sun early in the
spring, then shade in the summer after it has bloomed.
There's mulch or compost there. In other words the
conditions mimic those of a deciduous forest. You
might try early-spring blooming forest wildflowers, if
you want something pretty that will grow under a
My grapes were originally 4-arm Kniffen but actually I
prune 1st dead wood, then any unhealthy or
unproductive looking wood, then leave fruiting wood
(what grew last year--especially what grew in the
sun--it stores energy for fruiting in the cane) except
where it exceeds the space I have (about 9 feet of
trellis for each vine, about one or two feet thick). I
have given up trying to get my vines to look like
pictures in books. They bear heavily--the Canadice
started to last year after the load of compost--most
years without any sprays. (I have used Kocide early in
the season to prevent black rot, some years.) It is
possible to grow grapes organically. Most disease can
be stopped with sun and air circulation. (And if need
be, Kocide or another copper spray is "organic.")
Zone 5 Massachusetts--no fruit trees blooming yet, we
had 3-4" of snow a week ago, it's melted now, the
first bulbs are blooming

--- Joe Hecksel <jhecksel at voyager.net> wrote:
> Hello:
> Does anybody have experience planting rhubarb under
> grapevines?
> I bought a package of rhubarb seed and now have 14
> plants.  I am 
> looking for a place to put them.  The grapes are
> primarily French-
> American hybrids trained to Geneva Double Curtain.  
> It certainly looks like there will be plenty of
> light until June 15, or 
> so and I much prefer rhubarb to nettles, thistles
> and catnip that now 
> want to grow there.
> Any comments or observations will be appreciated.
> -- 
> Joe Hecksel
> Personal Webpage http://my.voyager.net/~jhecksel
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