If you're interested in growing grapes in Florida, then look no further than the muscadine grape, native to our state and other areas of the Southeast.
Sometimes called scuppernongs, these grapes are popular because they have a high degree of tolerance to pests and diseases and can be grown with minimal or no use of pesticides.
Muscadines differ from the bunch grapes found in the produce section of the supermarket in that they are thicker-skinned, somewhat spicy-sweet, and are picked individually from the vine rather than in bunches.
They mature in August and early September, when you can pick them from the vine and enjoy them fresh or make them into jelly, jam, or wine.
Wild muscadine vines can be either male or female and must grow near each other in order for pollination to occur and grapes to form. If you don't have the room for multiple vines, opt for a self-fertile variety, i.e. those that are said to have "perfect" flowers.
Many varieties of muscadines are commercially available, and several of the most popular self-fertile cultivars in Florida are 'Carlos', 'Polyanna', 'Florida Fry', and 'Southern Home' (the latter is actually a hybrid of bunch and muscadine grapes developed in Florida).
Growth and care
Muscadines will do best and fruit most heavily if planted in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Plant new vines in the spring after the danger of hard freezes has passed, spacing plants at least 10 if not 20 feet apart and leaving 4 to 10 feet between rows.
Proper trellising helps contribute to good fruit production, so choose a trellising system that will work in your space. While growing grapes over an arch or pergola can look nice, these structures can make it harder for you to maintain the vines and fruit production may decline. You want to be sure you have easy access to the cordons (arms) of each vine so that you can prune them each year.
For tips on setting up and maintaining your own vineyard, read the UF/IFAS publication "The Muscadine Grape" or contact your local Extension office.