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Master Gardeners visit local vineyard

By Blake Carter

Hello, Effingham County!

I have been MIA from articles the past few weeks and I apologize for that! As we start this new year off, I wanted to let someone other than myself share ssome exciting news about what is going on in the county.

Last fall, our Master Gardener group had an excellent time learning about grapes being grown locally. I asked Mr. Mark Anderegg to write up a little recount of our trip to Stokes Vineyard: 

Recently, a group of Georgia Master Gardeners from Effingham County visited Stokes Vineyard to learn more about the vineyard.  The group included Brenda Harrelson, Leroy Lloyd, Mark Anderegg and Effingham County Extension agent Blake Carter. While it is not widely known in the county, the vineyard located at 119 Reedsville Road, Clyo, has been in development since Mr. John Stokes of Pineora, inherited the property in 1996. 

Mr. John Stokes, the owner and operator of the vineyard, became a Master Gardener in 2000. As they are today, Master Gardeners were required to complete hours of volunteer time in addition to classroom studies in horticulture. Mr. Stokes’ hours were in serving at Bamboo Gardens in Chatham County, while also being a full-time paper mill employee. His volunteer hours there were fulfilled in the support of Bamboo Gardens in several ways, ranging from evaluation of mandarin and other fruit varieties to helping with the cleaning of day lily beds. 

Mr. Stokes started by purchasing 10 cuttings in 1996 and has gradually improved the vineyard in its size and sustainability. Mr. Stokes said he has acquired most cuttings though Ison’s Nursery and Vineyards, a useful resource also for helpful educational materials.  

Mr. Stokes described the attributes of good grape varieties. They include having good sugar content, color, size and patent. The patent indicates the stated variety’s name as sold is authentic and not a hybrid.  

Having a sufficient water source is a crucial factor for such a facility in order that the many plants be kept alive and productive, especially during dry periods. 

In the early days of the vineyard, Mr. Stokes watered plants from a 50-gallon drum. Today, his facility includes a well he has added along with the necessary water lines to his vineyard and orchard.

 The Stokes Vineyard now consists of 3.5-4.0 acres of more than 20 varieties of Muscadine grapes, including Scuppernong, Tara, Triumph, Cowart and Fry.  In addition, he maintains an orchard of mandarin orange, persimmon, pear and young pecan trees. 

The Stokes grape vineyard consists of long rows spaced 20 feet apart, each row consisting of a continuous horizontal cable five feet above the ground, supported by posts 20 feet apart and plants centered between the posts. At each end of the rows, the cable is anchored to a large timber post.

Mr. Stokes gave us a demonstration of pruning, explaining that it is normally done once the vines have lost all their foliage, usually near the end of February.  He prunes selected old and new growth and the ends of vines for each plant, so they do not extend into vines of the plants on either side.  This simplifies the pruning process by keeping each plant’s vines separate from others. 

According to Mr. Stokes, the grape plants will grow beyond the posts indefinitely if not kept within the nearest posts. In that event, the entire row would become entangled. A yearly pruning serves to minimize the congestion of new vines and serves to create more available space for the new fruit to grow. That also makes the fruit more visible for picking during harvest.   

Mr. Stokes also fertilizes the vineyard once a year with 10-10-10 Gold fertilizer along with added nitrogen in late February. He applies it in a circle on the ground around the plant’s trunk, its main stem, which he says is sufficient since the plants have a shallow system of long roots underground.

He does warn, however, not to get the fertilizer too close to the main stem in the case of fertilizing young plants as that could burn the stem and eventually kill the plant.

We really appreciated Mr. Stokes taking the time to take us through the vineyard. Not only was it an education about growing grapes, but he also let us pick a few of just the many varieties there for taste.   

Stokes Vineyard is located at 119 N. Reedsville Road, Clyo, Ga 31329.  Directions: take the first paved road after the convenience store and turn right, the vineyard is just a half a mile on the right. Please give Mr. Stokes a call to arrange to visit the vineyard. He can be reached by phone at (912) 659-7741.

Mr. Stokes will sell grapes which you can pick, provided they are ready for picking at that time. Thank you, Mr. Stokes!”— Mark Anderegg

I hope y’all enjoyed this article. If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, reach out to our office for more information! If you have any questions, suggestions or want further information, give me a call at or stop by the Effingham County Extension Office, (912)754-8040, 501 N. Richland Avenue, Rincon Ga. 31326.