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It's the End of the Grape Year: Time to Put the Vines to Rest

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou to you all and may the New Year bring good health to you and your family, your gardens and orchards! Here at Kawanui Farm in mauka Kona, Winter is the time to help the grapes rest before they start their new growth cycle in the Spring.

Gerry usually waits until early December to help the vines drop all their leaves, as some of them will naturally do that and others want to keep growing new leaves throughout the winter. It wouldn't be a good idea to let them continue growing because they will all be pruned way back in February, and giving them a little rest time before pruning is a good idea. Pruning the long vines back in February helps the plants put all their energy into producing grapes in the next growing season. In grape growing regions of the world, when it gets cold, the grapes drop their leaves, but here in the subtropics some of the varieties need a little help.

All varieties of grapes grown here have both temperate and some subtropical genetics. If you live under 1,000 ft. elevation where it is warmer and drier than our 1,450 ft. elevation, your vines could possibly drop more of their leaves before December.

We have five small vineyards at Kawanui Farm, and it takes a few days work for Gerry to help all the grapevines shed their leaves. It gives him a chance to really view the structure of last years vine growth and begin thinking about the pruning that will happen in February. The photo below will show you one years woody growth of the variety Edna. Grapevine growth in the subtropics in vigorous! 98% of this wood will be pruned in February and used as kindling for our fireplace, recycling the wood ash back to the vineyard.

Usually the dry season begins by the first to the middle of November but this year that did not happen. In fact November recorded the highest rainfall in the last 25 years, 9.8 inches! We have a feeling that these "breaks from traditional weather patterns" are climate change events. The grapes were encouraged by the rainfall to continue growing, but some of them slowed down in spite of their daily watering. Remember, grapes like it drier than wetter, so for those of you who live in drier places these varieties of table grapes should do very well for you. It also has been very cloudy this year, and grapes prefer the sun to develop good production and sweetness of fruit.

You can check out our September Blog 2023 that summarizes our Summer Harvest. It was not a grand cru year, but we did get lots of grapes especially Tamiami. This past summer we were able to taste a few new varieties that were old enough to produce fruit and a few of them were excellent, namely Largo and Meyers 6-7. Grape varieties all have unique taste characteristics and you will not know that for 6-8 years. Our criteria has always "been tough and hardy and with good taste and production."

The leaf mulch provides the perfect protection for the soil, while adding nutrients as they slowly break down, and feeding the worms who help feed the vines. If the State becomes as dry as predicted mulching will be necessary for all gardens and orchards. Glenn Teves and I recently wrote a Blog about this:

In January we will be offering hard copies of our book, "Growing Table Grapes in Subtropical Hawaii Using Organic Practices," that is currently available online for free download. Some of you might want a personal copy that has log pages in the back for keeping notes of your own grape experiments. I will tell you more about that soon.

Also, at the end of February there will be a limited offering of scion wood to people who live on Hawaii Island and feel experienced enough to get them started, while we investigate what it will take to ship by mail to the outer islands in the future. You can read about "Starting Grapes From Scion Wood" in Chapter 3. If you are interested in any of the varieties listed in Chapter 8, please send me an email and I will keep a list. We will not be mailing any scions this year, you would need to pick them up here at the farm. There will be a nominal cost for the scions.

Mahalo your your interest in getting table grapes growing all over the Hawaiian Islands, and please know we are always interested in your unique varieties, successes, and challenges! So let us know. You can email us at

For more grape information, Blogs, and Photos please visit our farm website:

Happy New Year to All,

Gerry Herbert and Nancy Redfeather

A quiet evening Sunset at Kawanui.

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