Grape Arbor

I couldn’t sleep, thinking of how to construct a grape arbor in an imaginary backyard.

Months later, over a weekend, two of us did a version of just that. With the remainding wood stock, we then made two benches. The whole thing is about 8-foot tall, 4-foot deep, and 12-foot wide. The back posts are cemented in the ground; the front ones are free-standing on concrete floor. We planted two grapes close to the back posts so that we can train them up the arbor.

When I was a true country boy, I would do monkey-bar on a neighbor’s grape arbor and picked from the vine as I played. The arbor was made of bamboo, abundant and nearly free. We lived in a sub-tropical area. That arbor provided shade, play structure, and sweet desserts. It was among my best childhood memories.

First time I visited Napa, I was surprised how grapes were trimmed low and not over-hanging. I then understood how things work. Grapes produce fruit only from the sprouts. The wine makers optimize for production and ease of harvesting. Backyard gardeners usually have a different motivation. The key, however, is the same: train the grapes by tying its canes and prune them over the winter. After the grapes have reached the final shape, cut off nearly all new canes of the year, every year. They won’t fruit.

As I sat under this bare arbor, I imagine the canes sprawling all over the top. Every spring, we will see the new sprouts budding out. By summer, we will anticipate the cluster turning into edible fruits. We will sample to check their ripeness and eat them as we harvest. Then we will see the leaves turn brown and mentally prepared for the year’s pruning work.

And we won’t see the arbor anymore. It’s just grapes.

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