Comment on PBS show: Grapes in Cape Town

After watching the PBS news show last week, I wrote the following comments.  My hope is to solve problems that will happen when droughts hit South Africa.

The farmers of urban South Africa should consider growing grapes the hydroponic way.

Patio in Santorini, Greece. from

First: most people do not have enough land area in their back yards to get an adequate crop that will yield enough income. Many residents will need to use their roof tops or carports. Maybe with a trellis system that the people in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece have enjoyed for ages.

Second: Drought risk. Today it is America that suffers from drought. South Africa may be next. Grapes require a huge investment of time (a 3 year wait) and some money (for root stock and the supports, be they posts and wire, or trellis). Low income people cannot risk being wiped out by a drought (driven to bankruptcy).

And water supply from public pipes is limited in these urban areas. So the residents will need to use rain collected from their roofs. And then use it efficiently. So that is why hydroponics is worth considering.

Sure, hydroponics requires investment in planters and pipes and pumps to circulate the water. But that can be done in small steps and stages. Start with recycled food pails and gutters made from wood or bamboo. Start with just a few plants. Then as income rolls in, invest in more pails and pipes and pumps.

Also, think about growing grapes in tall and wide tubes filled with the right kind of rocks and gravel. Many times it has been reported that the farmers of France and Italy prefer rocky soils and get their best crops after the roots have grown very deep.* (see note below)

Grapes growing in rocky soil. At Domaine Grand Veneur, Cote du Rhone Village

These tall tubes can serve 2 functions:

–grow good grapes and

–be support columns for trellises or for the roofs of the grape growers’ homes.

Yes, I will try this system at my home next Spring (it now is Winter in America :–)

Hydroponic grapes are being grown in Italy and Spain.

Read the article at:
The article there in turn links to the complete article at:

* Note:  The idea of growing grapes in containers with rocks was tried by Jeff Chorniak in the late 1990’s. His explanation follows (I added the bold font):

“… The potted soil I mixed is 60 percent sandy loam and 40 percent fossilized limestone gravel for drainage, and slightly alkaline. This is good grape soil. It required driving around in my VW Golf looking for deposits of limestone gravel. I found limestone on the side of the local freeway. They had to blast through a layer of limestone to build the highway, leaving deposits of gravel on the side of the road. Several trips to the highway with a shovel and very large container solved the problem…”

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