Planting and Training Young Grapevines
Time of Planting
Dormant grapevines are planted anytime during the growing season, but typically are planted in early spring after the date of the last hard freeze has past. Planting vines early is less stressful on the vines given favorable environmental conditions (e.g., mild temperatures, adequate soil moisture, etc).
Planting Dormant Rootings and Dormant Benchgrafts
Remove the grapevines from cold storage 7 to 10 days prior to planting. Store them in moist sand or shavings in a cool location away from direct sunlight to allow them to warm up and acclimate to ambient conditions.
Hand planting is still a very practical and effective way of getting vines established. Holes can be dug with a power auger or water jet. Augers can hand held or 3-point mounted and PTO driven on a tractor. Holes for vines should be augered as an independent operation before the day of planting using a 4 to 6 inch (10 to 15 cm) diameter auger. The holes should be about 12 to 18 inches (30 to 46 cm) deep. Holes augered in heavy clay soils often have glazed, impermeable sides, particularly if the soil was wet when drilled, which can restrict root growth. The sides of auger holes should therefore be scored with a hoe or hand trowel before planting. The soil should be moist on the day of planting. Wet soil is apt to compact; dry soil can desiccate tender roots. Water jets have the advantage of settling the soil closely to the roots and also deliver water right where it is needed at planting.
If conditions are right for a laser planter, this is probably the most effective and efficient stress-free method available. Like all machines, laser planters work best on flat and broad surfaces. Hilly, uneven and rocky sites pose more of a challenge. Laser planters use sensors and geographic positioning system (GPS) technology to plant straight rows with vines equidistant in the row and aligned precisely up and down, across and diagonally in the vineyard.
Planting Green Benchgrafts
Green growing benchgrafts are actively growing when delivered; therefore particular attention must be given to them during handling, planting and after planting to prevent desiccation. Ideally, green benchgrafts should be planted immediately after delivery.
Do not fertilize until growth has started and in some cases, little or no fertilization may be required the first year. Fertilization of young grapevines differs from that of mature vines in that heavy emphasis is placed on nitrogen.
The vines should be irrigated immediately after planting, applying only enough water to wet the root zone and “set” the vines. Since young vines have limited root systems they must be irrigated regularly. Failure to deliver water at planting and over the first few months of a vine's life commonly results poor growth and establishment. More frequent irrigations may be necessary on sandy well drained soils.
Weeds should not be allowed to grow under the trellis or around the vines. Weeds compete with the vines for water and nutrients to the detriment of the young vine’s needs, not to mention weeds will physically crowd out the vines. Grasses are the most competitive weeds.
Cultivation is one option in controlling weeds but potential disadvantages include possible damage to trunks and roots, loss of soil organic matter by oxidation, increased soil compaction, and erosion.
Chemical weed control can involve using a combination of pre-emergence (soil-active) and postemergence (chemical burn down or systemic) herbicides.
Several forms of mulching have been effectively used around newly planted grapevines including municipal yard waste, wood chips, straw, hay, sawdust, and newspaper.
In addition, to the above mentioned options in controlling weeds, the wine grape grower can plant cover crops in between vine rows but not under the drip lines.
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