Thursday, May 13, 2021

My two One-Year-Old Thomcords and the Modified Munson Trellis System

During the summer of 2020 I purchased two Thomcord table grape vines from Double A Vineyards. Not a huge purchase, but I am backyard-kinda gardener and, in terms of space, that's all I can afford. Our whole property, including the house, is 1/3 of an acre.

First, let me explain why I purchased Thomcords instead of any other type of grape vine. I grew up in Korinthos, Greece and in that region they grow Sultana or Sultanina table grapes. This grape is perfect for making Chablis-type of wine AND amazingly sweet, voluminous raisins. My parents would buy these raisins by the case (τελάρο), because of their taste and in that region local raisins were very inexpensive. They would have the case set by the kitchen exit door and I would stuff my pockets with them and run out to play. Also, my mom would often make dolmades and I remember her calling me and asking me to go to the backyard to get grape leaves for her. Good times! 

In the US the Thompson grape variety is equivalent to the Sultanina and it grows in zones 7 - 9. I live in New York, America, and the zone in my town is at best 6a. This means that the Thompson grape vine will never survive the harsh winters. But wait, there is more! HOWEVER, the Thomcord variety is a cross between Thompson and Concord and it well suited for cold climates. BINGO

Well, I love to cook and I want to make dolmades using the same leaves as the ones my mom used back in my Korinthos days. Please note that I use Korinthos and not Corinth because Korinthos is the correct name of the town, but I digress.

In general, table grapes require a different trellis system that that of wine grapes. Double A Vineyards recommend the Modified Munson trellis

The image below shows four wires strung between two posts. I've created several videos about this system, ref 1, ref 2 and I will not cover that material here. 

(Image referenced from

As the vine grows, you will need to train it and "send" two cordons to the left and two to the right starting form the head of the vine. Then, as the vine will grow, you will further send canes that grow from the cordons to drape over the outer wire of the Munson system.

Here is the beginning of the "training". This Thomcord vine image shown below is about one year old. 

The same vine is shown here while I was working on adding the twine. 

Below I show the second vine that I've planted. This vine had a rough start because I didn't pay close attention after I planted it and it had several slugs munching on the leaves. After I "relocated" the slugs, it started to grow again.  

The image below shows the marginal growth after the vine's first winter. 

Normally, you should clear all leaves that grow on the trunk of the vine because that growth will rob energy from going to the grapes. As I said in the beginning, the primary reason for this is to get leaves to make dolmades and I will not trim the leaves. 

Happy gardening! 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

PSA: All Greeks stay home every Tuesday the 13th

Tuesday the 13th is the same as Friday the 13th for Greeks. This is not just triskaidekaphobia, it stems from the fall of Constantinople (Constantinople is now known as Istanbul) in 1453. 

Turks invaded Constantinople on May 29, 1453, which was a Tuesday and if you add up 1+4+5+3 you get 13. Kind of strange to come up with Tuesday the 13, but I am just the messenger,

Here is a side note about Greek language. First the history. Constantinople was protected by a wall that surrounded the city, however there was a tiny portal called Kerkoporta that was left open and a few Turkish soldiers came in from there and the rest is history. So, you can call an entryway "Kerkoporta" you want to convey a message of "weak defence" or simply a "difficult entry way" or a "tiny door". Only a Greek who attended Greek schools will know this trivial fact, but you know me and it's just the same. 

Stay home today!

Monday, April 12, 2021

Look ma, my asparagus is growing!

Three years ago I purchased Mary Washington asparagus seeds, a variety that is hardy enough for zone 6a, from Rare Seeds. I followed their instructions and all seeds sprouted! I dedicated a whole bed for it, but I didn't plant all 25 because there was no room for them. I planted 12 of them and I gave the rest to a friend. 

The first two seasons I did not the harvest any asparagus spears because you want to develop a strong root system. The first year I saw the ferns grow to be about four feet tall and the asparagus spears grew to about two feet tall. The spears were too thin, though. The first fall, in preparation for the New York winter, I mulched the bed heavily with straw and hay after the fers had died back and I cut them to the ground. The second summer the spears looked much stronger and got really tall. There were spears that were as tall as I am, 5' 10", however that's not a reliable measure because I've been shrinking stradily, but I digress. 

That following late fall/early winter again I mulched the bead heavily after the ferns had died back. During both winters we got a considerable amount of snow, but the plants survived and proved that this variety is indeed very hardy. 

During both summers the ferns got to be so tall that I had to devise a method to hold the ferns upright and not falling on the ground and possibly breaking. I wanted the asparagus to benefit from the sun's energy. Here are a few YouTube videos that I created for my asparagus:

  1. Supporting the ferns.

  2. Winterizing the bed.

  3. Early spring bed maintenance.
This morning, after almost 24 hours of steady, slow, rain I went outside and walked around the garden and I saw several spears that had sprouted! The spears are nice and thick and I'm already planning the first dish where asparagus is the star of the show. 

Please note that I prescribe to the Ruth Stout philosophy where you mulch your garden heavily with straw or leaves or hay. If you are not familiar with this gardening methodology please go to your local library and check out this author's books.

Happy gardening!