Cultivating Muscadine Grapes At The Bug Out Location

Looking for an easy to grow grape for the bug out location? Look not further than the Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia), aka possum grape. However, the Muscadine is not native to the northern portion of the United States, or the western states, such as California.

While there are a number of varieties available from big box outlets stores, we want native wild species at the bug out location. This means finding wild growing Muscadine grapes, harvesting the seeds, and then planting the seeds.

Southeast Texas Muscadine grapes
Southeast Texas Muscadine grapes growing wild.

Typically, wild Muscadine grapes will grow along creeks, streams, or highlands with well drained sandy soil. Seeds are spread by wildlife eating the grapes, then pooping the seeds out.

Look for wild growing Muscadine grapes under the base of trees, along the edge of bodies of water, such as rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. In other words, anywhere birds may roost.

Depending on variety, the Muscadine will vary in color from white to dark red.

Why cultivate Muscadines around the bug out location?

  • Native wild edibles tend to grow better than domesticated.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Grow well in a range of soils.
  • Need little care or attention.
  • Prune yearly growth back in the winter to promote new growth.
  • Plant where the vines get at least eight hours of sunlight daily.
  • Muscadines tolerant a wide range of soil conditions.

Muscadine Grape Trellis

Muscadine Grape Trellis
Abandoned Muscadine pipe trellis dating to the 1970s.

To build a Muscadine trellis:

  • 6 foot long fence post pipes, such as for a cyclone fence.
  • T-post driver, for driving the post into the ground.
  • Drill motor.
  • 1/4 inch drill bit.
  • Stainless steel wire.
  • Wire cutters.

1. Drill a 1/4 hole through one end of the pipe around 2 – 3 inches from the end.

2.  Drill another hole around 18 inches below the first hole.

3.  Use the T-post driver to drive around 2 feet of the pipe into the ground, with the holes up.

4.  Space the pipes around 8 feet apart, for a total length of between 16 – 24 feet.

5.  Muscadine vines can grow rather long, so give them plenty of room.

6.  Run stainless steel wire through the holes and secure to the end pipes.

7.  Plant harvested seeds where they have as much room as possible to run.

I have seen Muscadine vines run an easy 30 – 40 feet long into the tops of oak trees.  So it is important to keep the vines pruned and trimmed before they become too long.

Muscadine may also grow along fence lines, such as a chicken yard fence, or barbed wire livestock fence.

Muscadine Soil Conditions

One of the wonderful things about the Muscadine, it tolerates a wide range of soil conditions.  It will grow anywhere from sandy soil in a hay field. to the banks of a creek bottom.

The only real place I have not seen Muscadine vines populate are marshes, soughs and bogs.

Plant them where they receive plenty of sunlight; limited sunlight seems to delay growth.  The largest Muscadine vines seem to grow where they get the best view of the southern sun.

Native Wild Muscadine

While it is tempting to purchase grape plants from the local big box mart, we want native wild varieties. The domesticated sock will probably bear more fruit, and the fruit may taste better than the wild grapes, the wild grapes are probably more hardier than store bought grapes.

Look around bodies of water – creeks, streams, ponds… etc between late July and August.  It is not uncommon to find Muscadine grapes on the banks of creeks during that time period.

The base of Muscadine grape vines have a brown bark which is easy to flake off.

Base of a Muscadine vine.
Base of a Muscadine vine. Note the brown flaky bark.

Shaking the base of the vine may cause grapes to fall off the vine.  We want grapes which have reached their mature color, which may anywhere from white. to dark red.

Save the seeds, dry, and plant either at the end of summer, or freeze, and plant in the spring.  With wild varieties, I found mimicking their natural cycle is best.

Final Thoughts

Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) have been used to make everything from jelly to wine. The outer skin is thicker than domesticated grapes, and the grape will typically have one – three seeds in the pulp.

Ripe Muscadine ready to be harvested
Ripe Muscadine ready to be harvested.

One of the wonderful things about the Muscadine / possum grape, is how hardly the plant is. While not as sweet as domesticated grapes, the Muscadine more then makes up for it in its hardiness.

I have a vine growing along the chicken yard fence, and it survived one of the harshest winters this part of Texas has seen in years, it not decades, which was the 2017 – 2018 winter.

Planting Muscadine grapes at the bug out location can be a fun activity for the whole family.  Get the kids involved, and in a few years the family will be eating wild grapes.