Plant vines as early as possible in the spring. Keep vines cool and moist from the time you obtain them until planting. If the vineyard site has been adequately prepared (Zabadal and Andresen, 1997), then the steps in planting (Zabadal, 1997) should proceed in rapid succession.
The hobbyist grower with a small number of vines should take the time to plant each vine so the root system is well distributed in the soil volume. Do not merely shove roots down a hole made with a posthole digger. Dig a large hole so roots can be spread out horizontally and vertically. Fill in the hole over the roots with loose soil. Then pull up the vine slightly so the aboveground portion of the vine is at ground level. Planting straight rows of vines in a small vineyard can be accomplished without commercial equipment. Stretch a rope or wire along the ground so it is parallel to and offset 30 inches from the row of vines (Fig. 6). Then use a 5-foot measuring stick to precisely measure the placement of the vine from that wire or rope to the middle of that measuring stick (Fig. 6). There should be a 6-inch mound of soil around vines after planting (Fig. 7). If the canes on these new vines have been pruned back to 6 inches or less prior to planting, then all shoots developing from the vine can be allowed to grow.
Weed control is the single most important vineyard establishment task. Be sure no vegetation grows within a minimum of 24 inches of vines in all directions. Increasing this vegetation-free area up to 48 to 60 inches in all directions from vines may dramatically increase vine growth. If weeds are not controlled around vines, nothing else that you do will promote good vine establishment. Weed control by the hobbyist can be accomplished mechanically (hoeing) or through mulching. Mulching materials can include plastic, grass clippings, straw, leaves, rocks, newspaper held with rocks, etc. When mulching around vines, completely seal the soil surface around vines and eliminate any weeds that escape through the mulch.
Fertilize new vines immediately after planting by ringing fertilizer in a circle 12 inches from the vine. Apply 6 ounces of 12-12-12 or some equivalent garden fertilizer around each vine. Do not use weed-and-feed fertilizer mixes — grapevines are very susceptible to injury from the herbicides in these products.
Keep vines healthy and free of insects/diseases. Pest control information for small vineyard plantings is available in a companion publication (Zabadal, 1999). Remove clusters from vines as soon as they develop in the first two years to promote vine establishment. If there is any doubt about the trueness to variety of vines, one or two clusters per vine can be retained as a check.
It is helpful but not essential to establish the trellis in the first growing season for vine support. When a trellis is installed, shoots should be loosely tied to the trellis wires using a combination of twine and twist ties (Fig. 8). Vines can also be grown along the ground in the first growing season and the trellis installed the following fall or spring (Fig. 9). Vines should be pruned before the start of the second growing season so that one (Fig. 10) or two canes (Fig. 1a) are tied to the top wire of a trellis to begin forming the trunks of the vine. Clusters are removed from the vines to promote the vegetative growth of the vine.
Significant cropping is possible for vines in their third growing season if they have been well managed. Poor vine management will delay the full productive potential of vines one or two years or even indefinitely.
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