a. Prior to planting Pre-irrigate holes for 24 hours, fully saturating the soil in the pre-dug holes.
b. Water heavily right after planting (to push out air pockets in root zone) approx. 12 gallons.
c. First 2 weeks The general rule is 6-8 gallons per week watering every other day.
d. After 2 weeks Cut water back to 5-6 gallons per week watering every 3rd day. (Your watering schedule will depend on your soil)
A drip system is more efficient than a sprinkler system. To avoid rot and mildew try to keep water off the fruit and vines. ½ gallon or 1 gallon per hour emitters recommended for grapevines.
The hole should be big enough to accommodate the roots and provide adequate space. Dig a hole about 12” to 18” deep and about 12” in diameter.
Lay the roots of the vine in the hole, spreading them out in the hole so they do not bunch together. Backfill to establish proper height of the plant. The graft union must be 4” to 6” above the soil line after firming the soil around the plant. Remember, the soil will settle and the vines may sink some.
Most will produce fruit by the third year and in full production by the fourth year.
A low to moderate yield would be 5 lbs per plant.
Need: about 20 pounds of fresh fruit (4 vines) for each gallon of wine.
200-250 vines will be enough for a 60-gallon barrel (with some extra)
Vines: 5-8 feet between rows and 4-6 feet between plants, with southwest exposure
Spacing between rows. This is the easy one to explain because it really has nothing to do with the vine growth itself. The main factors are more about maneuverability, sunshine exposure, and air flow. The idea is to make sure that you have enough room to work your plants comfortably. 5'-6' between rows is recommended if you are working the plants by hand. Use 5' if you have a smaller area and you need to take full advantage of your available land.
Based on a 6' tall trellis system, using a simple VPS (Vertical Positioning System), anything below 5' between rows can cause one row to shade the next and also cause poor air circulation.
Good air flow through the canopy helps control fungus disease. If possible keep the distance between rows minimum 6'. If you intend to drive a tractor, riding mower or any other vehicle between the rolls you will need to space the rows at least 3-4' wider than the width of the vehicle so that you can operate the vehicle effectively and safely.
Spacing between plants. Think about the region you live in, what your climate is, what your soil mixture is and what grape variety you intend to plant. Basically how vigorous will your vine will be regarding those factors?
If for instance you live in high soil fertility, deep clay with lots of organic matter and lots of rainfall in a hot climate, then you are likely to need more spacing between your vine rows. Approximately 6-8' apart.
However, if you have poorer soils and you are located in a dry region much less distance maybe more appropriate. 4'-6' spacing might be ideal.
The planting hole should be about 8" wide by 8-12" deep. If you have a grafted vine then make sure the graft union is at least 2-4" above ground level. The root system should fit comfortably in the hole.
Naturally, what direction that is optimum for your rows will depend on your particular available site area and the region you live in. If you can, run your rows North and South for maximum sunlight capture. And if you are in a warmer climate you may consider slightly angling them Southwest to Northeast to reduce intensity.
Most importantly, plant your vines in rows for best airflow and maximum sunlight.
Vines: do not use fertilizer for the 1st month, and then 2-3 times per year use 15-15-15 mix
Grape growers find a vine with a specific trait they want to replicate. It could be resistance to fungus, desired berry or cluster size or earlier ripening. Sometimes there’s a particular flavor or aroma that a clone tries to capture.
In most wine regions, grape plants do not do well when grown on their own roots. We graft scion to rootstocks with beneficial traits such as low or high vigor, drought tolerance or pest resistance.
1. Spur Pruning
Spur pruning is most effective, most popular and most appropriate for vines of medium to high vigor. Classic grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are most often spur pruned. Spur pruning is the pruning style of choice for backyard vineyards and vines that are trained on fences and other simple trellises. The reason for its popularity is that spur pruning is easy to do and easy to teach. It’s basically like giving the grapevine a short haircut, retaining one “arm” on the fruiting wire as a permanent “cordon,” and trimming back the spurs on the vine (to 2 to 3 buds) each year to limit the growth. Just walk down the vine row and chop all of the dormant canes down to “spurs” of two (or three) dormant buds. By a spur I mean a dormant cane that has been cut back to only a few inches, with only two or three visible “buds” on its length. Once in a while there will be a dead section on a vine and you might compensate by leaving one extra bud on an adjacent spur to fill out the canopy. You’ll need to learn how many buds to leave on your vines, and how your decision influences vine growth, vigor and fruit production the next two years. Experiment, make the wine and then decide what is the best spur-pruning style for you. Don’t worry to much about hurting or damaging the vine; it is stronger than you think. The disadvantage of spur pruning is that all of the buds that are retained are considered “basal” or adjacent to the main arm or trunk of the vine, which means they are less fruitful in cool or cold climates. Another problem is that individual spurs can die, which will leave gaps in the canopy.
2. Cane Pruning
Cane pruning is most popular in Burgundian-styled vineyards (Pinot Noir, table grapes and other lower vigor, cool climate grape varietals). Say you are looking at a dormant vine that you want to “cane prune.” It looks something like a Medusa having a bad hair day. Canes are sprouting all over the place, and the vine needs to be “tamed.” First locate two canes that appear to be healthy, thicker than a pencil, but less than three times as thick as the same pencil. Canes tend to be less fruitful if they are too big. Try to choose the canes that have been in a position to receive excellent sun exposure over the past growing season. Now retain those canes and cut everything else off. The only other material you want to retain is a couple of stubby, two-bud spurs down on the head of the vine to help make “renewal canes” for the year after next. Now remove all the excess cut canes from the trellis wires and wrap one cane going one way on the fruiting wire (tie it down firmly with a wire twist-tie), and then the other retained cane going the other way on the fruiting wire (away from the vine’s “head”). I make a cut right through the last bud, which makes a bump so the twist-tie doesn’t slip off the end. The ends of the canes should be cut so that the tip of one cane should meet the tip of the cane tied on the wire from the adjacent vine. This way there is “new wood” on every inch of your fruiting wire, and only one cane, so the canopy will not be congested when the vines start to grow. This is the “bilateral cane-pruned” system of vine training. The advantages of cane pruning are: frost protection, even production, even spacing of growing shoots in the spring, allowing sunlight into the canopy if a vertical-type trellis is used, and using new wood yearly. The major disadvantage of cane pruning is shading, along with the time it takes, the cost and the expertise necessary to do it right. Educated choices are required for every vine. How many buds per shoot are you going to leave? Are you going to retain only one cane per fruiting wire, or wrap two for higher production? Which canes will you retain and why? These decisions require a trained eye, but you can still make mistakes. Fortunately for all of us, vines are hard to kill.
3. Head Trained
Unless you’re growing Zinfandel or you’re up for a serious challenge, I recommend leaving head-training to the experts. Head-training is a style of pruning meant for vineyards without trellising. Head-trained vines look like stunted trees, and give little support to the vines save their own mature wood. If you’re still interested, I’ve been told to prune the vine like a goblet — keeping the center hollow, developing a short trunk and pruning the spurs up in a circular pattern, in the shape of the rim of a glass. The main advantage of head training is obvious — it’s cheap. The disadvantages include: the vine toppling under its own weight; a congested canopy, which makes it an easy target for mildew and rot; and it can be difficult for sunlight to reach the fruit. Be creative with your pruning. Now that you know the basics of grapevine physiology and how pruning affects the growth and fruit quality, you can learn to custom-prune your vines through experimentation and careful observation.