Planting and First Three Years

Planting Guidelines

Planting Guidelines:

One of the most important steps to establishing a vineyard is the process of planting. Over 90% of planting losses are caused by the drying out of the vines in the field or frost injury. This loss can be prevented by:

  1. Plant in early Spring, when the soil is moist and workable. April and May are the most suitable months in the Northeast.
  2. Request that the vines be shipped so that they arrive only a few days prior to planting.
  3. After arrival, store the vines in a cool place (above 40 degrees Fahrenheit) and keep the roots moist at all times. Putting the roots of the vines into water (bathtub, pond, stream, or bucket) for one to two days before planting helps to “fill” the vine with water.
  4. Leave the roots as long as possible, because fine (thin) roots produce many rootlets quickly. Pruned back roots regenerate rootlets primarily at the cut surfaces, and larger roots regenerate rootlets slower. In addition, the roots store most of the vine’s reserves for growth. Any reduction in reserves will reduce the potential growth during the first year.
  5. Grafted vines should have the graft union located at about the level of the loose soil in the field, which will leave them about 2 inches above the soil level after it has settled.
  6. Make sure that the soil to root contact is good by compressing the soil around the roots. This is best accomplished by stepping on the soil around the planted vine with your heel.
  7. Immediately after planting, cover the vine completely with loose soil. This will protect the vine from frost injury and from drying out. It is important to remember that nursery vines have been stored above freezing temperatures for the winter and are not cold hardy (below 30 degrees Fahrenheit).
  8. We do not recommend planting in the Fall.

For a small visualization, here is an easy way to know the correct way to plant your grapevines:

Planting Diagram (PDF)

Planting by Hand:

If planting into loose/recently tilled soil, dig a trench 10 inches deep and 2 feet long. If digging into settled/non-tilled soil, make a trench 8 inches deep. Place the vine into the hole/trench with the roots fanning out to each side of the vine. Back fill the hole with 4 inches of soil and then press down onto the roots to ensure good soil to root contact. This is best accomplished by lightly stomping on the soil in the hole. Then back fill the rest of the hole, making sure that you completely cover the vine. This loose soil will protect the vine from drying out and from frost injury. Once the vine has started growing (the shoots will start to grow up through the loose soil) and any risk of a late frost has past, then carefully pull the hill of soil away from the vine to expose the graft union. If you plan on using protective devices, such as grow tubes, this is the time when they should be installed.

 

Planting with an Auger:

Use as large an auger as possible, 12 inches diameter or larger is best. If smaller than 12 inches, make 2 holes next to each other and use a shovel to connect them. If planting into loose/recently tilled soil, auger a hole 10 inches deep. If digging into settled/non-tilled soil, make your auger dig a hole 8 inches deep. Place the vine into the hole with the roots fanning out to each side of the vine. Or if the hole is not wide enough, place the trunk of the vine to one side of the hole and have the roots fan out from there. Back fill the hole with 4 inches of soil and then lightly stomp on the soil to ensure good soil to root contact. The last step is to back fill the hole the rest of the way, making sure to completely cover the vine. This loose soil over top of the vine provides protection against frost injury and from drying out. Once the vine has started growing (the shoots will start to grow up through the loose soil) and the risk of a late frost has past, carefully pull the loose soil away from the vine exposing the graft union. If you are planning on using protective devices, such as grow tubes, this will be the time to install them.

One of the most common mistakes with auger planting is to make a deep hole, fill it partway back, and then plant the vine. This technique frequently causes the soil beneath the vine to settle, resulting in poor soil to root contact. This technique can also cause the entire vine to settle, making it impossible to keep the graft union above ground level (which leads to scion rooting). If one feels that it is important to make a deep hole, do so in the fall. This will allow the soil to settle back, and make the planting more successful.

 

Planting with a Tree or Vine Planter:

This planting technique allows for rapid planting while still maintaining good planting quality. Planting into loose/recently tilled soil, adjust the depth of your planting plow for a 10 inch digging depth. If planting into settled/non-tilled soil, make your trench 8 inches deep. Place the vine into the hole with the roots fanning out to each side of the vine. These machines also have wheels that press the soil around the roots. We have found that it is best to follow these wheels this someone “heeling” the trench to be sure that there is good soil to root contact. This is best accomplished by stepping on the trench with the heel of your shoe on each side of the vine. It is then necessary to follow the planting with either a shovel or a hilling up machine to make sure that the vine is completely covered. This loose soil will provide protection from drying out and from frost injury. Once the vine has started to grow (the shoots will start to grow up through the loose soil) and any risk of a late frost has past, carefully pull the soil around the vine away exposing the graft union. If you are planning on using any kind of protective devices, such as grow tubes, now will be the time to install them.

 

First Three Years

This guideline is intended to give basic instructions for new vineyard care. For regionally specific information or more detail, contact your area’s Cooperative Extension office or University.

 

First Year

As recommended by our planting instructions, it is always important to completely cover the newly planted vines with loose soil to protect them from dehydration and potential frost (32 degrees Fahrenheit or less) injury. Most planting failures derive from dehydration of the exposed vine, and most injury. Once the vine is growing (new shoots will grow up through the soil) and the site is well past the risk of a frost, then the hilled soil should be pulled away from the vine to expose the graft union. If grow tubes are going to be used this is the time to install them.

Grow Tubes: Grow tubes benefit a new vineyard’s development by making the vines more visible for management and protecting them from small rodent injury (such as rabbits and mice). Unfortunately, they can also be a problem if not used properly. Some of the common points of remember are:

1) As stated earlier, do not install your grow tubes at the same time as planting. Grow tubes do not protect the vine from cold injury and can increase the risk of dehydration to the exposed portion of the vine. Grow tubes should by installed after the vine starts growing and after any risk of frost has passed.

2) Some observations indicate that grow tubes may reduce trunk hardiness. Therefore, the tubes should be removed in the late summer or early fall so that the trunks will harden off properly for the winter.

3) Grow tubes should not be left on over the winter. They can increase the risk of cold injury to the trunk or graft union.

The primary purpose of the first year’s growth is to build the vine’s root system. To achieve this, it is important to develop as much leaf area as possible. Therefore, we recommend that 3-6 shoots be allowed to grow during the first year. Multiple shoots will create more canopy, quicker than 1 or 2 shoots can. In addition, multiple shoots will tend to produce smaller, more winter hardy canes. If you are growing in a region that does not experience freezing conditions during the winter (below 30 degrees Fahrenheit), then the small/thinner canes are not as important, but if you are likely to experience temperatures in the 20’s or lower, then multiple shoots will help decrease winter injury.

Trellising: It is important to install your trellis system early in the first season. A trellis provides support wires for your grow tubes and new shoots. Shoots that are on the ground are at a high risk for mildew, mechanical injury, and making weed management very difficult. Training your shoots on the trellis will also start the process of trunk and vine structure.

Trunk and Vine Development: If you intend on utilizing a vertically trained canopy, you will want two of your shoots to grow up to and along the fruiting wire (the wire where the canes or arms of the vine are attached, and are usually between 30 and 40 inches off the ground). The remaining shoots should be spread out over the remaining trellis. If you are planning on a high wire system, train two of the shoots to grow straight up to the top wire. If they do not reach the top by the end of the season, that is fine, you have achieved part of the distance. The rest can be easily accomplished the second year.

Remove the fruit after bloom (end of June-July) so that the energy of the vine goes to shoot and root development.

Spraying: All grape varieties requires some protection from mildew. Hybrids require less than vinifera, but still should be sprayed every year that the vines are grown, even years when there is no crop. For best results, consult your local Cooperative Extension for guidelines for your region. If you are unable to find spray guidelines, Cornell University and Penn State have put together a “Pest Management Guidelines for Grapes” that is updated each year and is applicable for virtually all regions east of the Rockies.

This publication is the Pest Management “bible” for the commercial grape grower in New York and Pennsylvania. Copies can be ordered from the website at: www.ipmguidelines.org. The current cost for a copy is $28.00 (2016). This can be used for more than one season, and makes for an excellent source of very accurate and up to date information.

Fall: Remove the grow tubes.

Hilling-up: Young grapevines are known to be much more winter tender than mature vines. This is especially true during the first three winters. If you are likely to see temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, it is very important to protect the graft union and basal buds of the vine. This is best achieved by hilling the vines up with soil. DO NOT use straw, grass clippings, leaves, etc. These materials may insulate the vine from cold, but they also insulate the graft union from the ground’s heat. In addition, this loose material creates a desirable location for mice and other rodents to nest. These animals can girdle your vine during the winter when food becomes scarce. Hilling up is best achieved using either a shovel or a tractor mounted tool like a “Green Hoe” which plows up the soil onto the vine. The Green Hoe can be used to pull the dirt away from the vines in the spring, some of the other hilling up equipment does not “un-hill” as well.

 

 

Second Year

Emphasis is on trunk development.

Pruning: In late winter/early spring, establish your trunks by selecting the best two shoots and prune the rest off. If you are in a region that experiences temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, retain one or two, two bud spurs at the base vine to provide future trunk renewal shoots. If you choose to remove all shoots that come up from the base of the vines, you will not have shoots available to start the trunk renewal process should you ever need to do so.

Spring: Once the risk of any frost has past, the protective hill of soil around your vines should be removed. For grafted vines, this this is necessary to prevent scion rooting. Scion roots create two potential problems:

1.) If scion roots are strong, a young vine may drop the use of the rootstock, defeating the purpose of planting grafted vines.

2.) Frequently the roots of the scion variety are susceptible to attack by nematodes, especially the Dagger Nematode. If the scion is left unchecked, this can leave the vine susceptible to transfer of Tomato or Tobacco Ring Spot virus, by the nematode from weeds to the vine.

In the second year, one will usually leave 6 to 8 shoots per trunk, depending on vine size. If your vines are in a very low vigor site, you might need to reduce this number to 3 to 4.

Don’t forget to spray your vines for mildew control.

It is recommended to recommended to remove all of the fruit during the second year. This is to put the vine’s energy into vine development increasing the likelihood of a full crop by the end of the fourth year. If you are in a highly vigorous site, or have a very vigorous variety, you may want to leave one cluster of fruit per shoot to help keep the vine’s vigor in check.

Fall: Although your vines are much more mature, it is still important to protect them from cold. Therefore, if you are in a region that can experience temperatures that fall below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, hilling up the base the base of the vine is advisable, not only during the second winter, but also the third. If you are in a region that falls below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, it is advisable to hill up your Vitis Vinifera varieties every winter and hybrids for the first three winters. If you think that you can stop hilling up your vines, check with an experienced local grower, Cooperative Extension, the local University/College, or with us (Grafted Grapevine Nursery) to see if it is advisable.

 

Third Year

The third year begins with the pruning for your desired vine structure.

Pruning: Pruning is normally done in late winter when you can check to see if you have experienced any winter injury. That way you can leave more buds if you have bud injury. It also gives you the ability to start the trunk renewal process if you have experienced trunk injury. This is done by retaining one or more of the shoot/canes that grew up from the base. This year should allow you to leave 20 to 30 buds/vine, depending upon vigor and vine spacing.

Crop: With the exception of very vigorous vines, the crop should be reduced to one cluster per shoot to continue the process of vine development. Under normal conditions, this will be the last year for crop reductions, with the exception of varieties that require crop “thinning” every year.

Don’t forget to spray your vines for mildew control.

If more information or clarification is needed, please contact us via email:

eric@graftedgrapevines.com or call 315-462-3288 and ask for Eric.

Have Questions? 

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Ask for Ute!
Phone: (315) 462-3288
Email:
Ute@graftedgrapevines.com

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Clifton Springs, NY 14432-9312

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