Thursday, March 01, 2007
With Spring just around the corner, 19 days to be exact, I thought it would be a good time to start talking about plants that can be grown to make beer or wine with. So for must of the month of March, I'll be covering how to plant and care for grapes and hops. I will also do a post on making your own malted barley. So first up, planting your grapes.
Selecting a site
Growing grapes well requires a long-term commitment. Vines require several years from time of planting to first harvested crop, and they normally do not reach full production until the fifth or sixth year. Grape plants can survive for 50 to 100 years, provided you care for them properly. Thus, it’s important to consider carefully both site selection and site preparation before you plant.
The first step toward consistent production of high-quality fruit is choosing a sunny location. Avoid frosty areas, as new shoot growth in April and May is very susceptible to frost injury. Sheltered home surroundings and sites usually are warmer. If possible, choose a sloping area, especially a south or southwest slope, because they generally have higher temperatures and are less likely to get frost.
In addition, if you plant in a row that goes in a north–south direction, the fruit and leaves will be better exposed to sunlight than in east–west rows; this way, you’ll produce better quality fruit.
Grapes grow on a wide variety of soil types. An important soil factor is drainage. Your grape plants won’t grow well if you have heavy clay soils with poor drainage or soils with an impervious subsoil claypan.
The soil should be free of perennial weeds and well tilled before you plant. You can improve the organic matter content of heavy clay soil by incorporating sawdust, manure, or compost; use only well-decomposed (rotted) material.
Don’t place compost directly in the planting hole; instead, incorporate it into soil in the whole planting area. You usually don’t need to add fertilizer at planting time.
Plant grapes in early spring as soon as you can work the soil. When you buy dormant, bare-root plants, make sure roots don’t dry out before planting. If you’re transplanting from a propagation bed or nursery, dig plants carefully to avoid breaking roots.
At planting, prune off all broken roots, trim very long roots, and prune off all but one vigorous cane from nursery-bought plants. Prune the cane back to two buds before planting. Set plants in a hole large enough to spread roots without bending them and to the same depth they were grown in the nursery.
Firm soil well around roots to remove air pockets, and water thoroughly. Leave a slight depression around the base of the plant to make watering easier. Irrigate plants as required.
Young grapevines can’t compete with weeds or established lawn grass for water and nutrients. Keep the planting free of all weeds. Cultivate shallowly, no deeper than 1 to 3 inches, to avoid injuring roots.
The spacing between rows depends in part on the training and trellis system you choose. In backyard plantings, 9 feet generally is suitable.
Spacing within the row depends on the cultivar you plant and the training system you use. Space European cultivars (Vitis vinifera) 6 to 7 feet apart. You can set American cultivars (V. labrusca) 7 to 8 feet apart in the row, because they are more vigorous (have longer internodes).
You can read more of this article at the Oregon State University's Ag Extension. The original article was written by Bernadine C. Strik, Extension berry crops specialist, Oregon State University.