How to Plant a Vineyard

how to plant a California Vineyard

Santa Ynez Vineyard

Basic Tips for Planting a Vineyard

Dreaming of owning your own vineyard? You can buy an existing one or buy undeveloped land and build from the ground up. Today we’re going to address the issues of planting a new vineyard.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What will you plant on the site?
  2. Is the site cool or warm?
  3. What is the site’s aspect and exposure?
  4. What is the soil type and is it fertile? What about drainage?
  5. What variety of grapes will the future wine market be interested in?

Knowing the answer to these questions will makes it easy for you to start planning and preparing for planting. Some of the decisions you need to make will be in regard to factors like:

1. Soil: Make sure the soil where you want to plant is neutral. To increase pH, add
calcium and in effect reduce acidity. You could engage a soil expert to do soil analysis
and find the site’s best rootstock.

2. Spacing: Space small vines closely to get more harvests. Space out vines in areas
that are more vigorous. The important thing is to create space and balance between the
vine and the fruit. Today’s standard spacing is 8 feet between the rows and 5 feet
between vines.

3. Row direction. If you are in an area where wind is not a cause of worry, keep the
vines in a north/south direction. The leaves become efficient since the broader side of
the vine faces east. In a slopey area, up and down direction will be perfect to control

Vineyard Soil Preparation

Regardless of whether you want to plant a vineyard in summer or winter, you must prepare the soil for the weather. Sub-soiling before winter allows the soil to be stable and resist the effects of rain and frost. During summer, you should sub-soil when the ground is hard and dry. Sub-soiling creates more space in the soil for aeration.

Vines are normally purchased as bare dormant root plants when they are about one year old. The plants can be planted at any time in the season but the best time is immediately after spring.
You should begin to plant vines when the soil is ready and the site is cleared. Use a surveyor tripod to mark the perimeter corners, draw lines with knots at the right spacing and use white powder to marks spots on the soil. Mark every row you create and place stakes where each vine shall be planted.

Get a team to work with you. One person should dig the hole, another place the vine seedling in place and another cover the vines with soil. Water all the plants well and place nursery cartons over the vines.

Vine Trellises

Trellises are made of steel posts or wood and wire. Trellising provides strong support for the vines and serves two purposes:

i)    To support the vine where it can carefully and effectively be managed
ii)    To expose a bigger part of the foliage to sunlight

Importance of Root System Development

The success of a vine depends on how the root system develops.  If the root grows well, the shoots will also grow well. Successful root development requires stable soil (to support the vine and supply nutrients), humid environment (to feed the vine) and an airy environment (for supply for oxygen which is essential for development).

Protection from Furry Friends

If you have rabbits or other varmints in your region, it is mandatory to guard your vines. Use fine thick diamond mesh that will not give the rabbits room to bite through. Do not use plastic tubes as the vines can be killed by frost because of low temperatures.

6 Essential Factors for a Successful Vineyard

Whether the motive for planting your vineyard is for self-consumption or a for-profit venture it will require a sizable investment, you’ll want to  insure optimum results so here are a summary of important factors that should be addressed in your vineyard plan.

1.  Water for irrigation: Contact a hydrologist for the possibility of groundwater (well)
2.  Soil characteristics: bulk density, water holding capacity, salinity, and pH issues
3.  Soil testing:  for Nitrogen, micro-nutrients, Cu, Zn, and B problems.
4.  Topography: for drainage.
5.  Written management plan consisting of the following:

  • Wind direction.
  • Pest Management.
  • Soil and nutrient management – Identify soil type, properties(physical)
  • Vineyard management.
  • Disease management.
  • Water management.
  • Ecosystem and environment management.
  • Human resources and labor management.
  • Waste management.
  • Business planning.
  • Crop insurance.
  • Risk management.
  • Contract management.

6. Marketing your crop:  Target market, identify competition, develop plan.


Planting a California Vineyard

Vineyard Design & Management Services

Vines require close attention throughout their development stages. You must have a good post planting management system to yield good harvest. You should train the vines, control weeds, control pests and diseases and constantly supply the plants with nutrients.

A successful vineyard takes a blend of skills that is part art and science and a lot of heart. Planting, growing and managing a successful vineyard is a labor of love. You need to love the process and the challenge because a misstep in any of the above areas can be devastating.

Please call me with any questions (805-765-2553) or make a comment below, I would be happy to help.

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