Grapes, the famous fruits used to make wine, are now grown all over the world. In fact, more than 72 million metric tons of grapes are grown annually. One of the principal benefits of growing grapes is that once you make the initial investment to cultivate the vineyard, you can continue to harvest grapes from it for close to 30 years. Here is brief guide to the art of growing grapes and maintaining a fruitful vineyard.
The preparatory steps you need to take before planting your first grapes include: selection of the best grape varieties, location, and soil. You also need to study the weather and climate where you intend to cultivate your vineyard. Since grapes are now grown all over the world, you need to focus more on the successful varieties in your location. Vines that flourish in tropical climates like California may not do as well in the cold climate of the state of Washington. Some popular grape varieties include Edelweiss, Valiant, Magnolia, Swenson Red, Thompson Seedless, and Romulus.
Locate your grape vines where they will receive sufficient sunlight. To enhance the growth of grapes and prevent fungi disease, avoid planting vines close to trees that block sunlight and obstruct the flow of air. The soil in your vineyard should have a pH value between 6.0 and 6.5. Your soil must also be well drained since vines do not thrive in water logged areas. Better still, plant the grape vines on a slope so that the water will flow down quickly after rainfall. Soil fertility should also be kept to the barest minimum because vines will produce more leaves and few fruits if you plant them in rich organic soils.
The grape vine is not strong enough to support the full weight of a good harvest of grapes. So to grow a substantial amount of grapes, you should install a trellis system. In backyard vineyards, growers use various means of support including fences and walls. They also use their grape vine to decorate their backyard and enhance their landscape. However, on a large farm, the focus of the trellis system should be on functionality. That is, your support system should be able to accommodate as many grapes as your vines can produce. You should incorporate the trellis design into the preparation of the farm even before you start planting. A fence contractor can help you to build a functional trellis system made of PVC pipe, treated wood, iron or aluminum.
Planting Grapes in Canaan
Vines are usually planted early in spring. But before planting in spring, you should have started preparations during the previous fall. Assess the parcel of land where you want to plant your vines and design a layout that will allow the plants to receive adequate soil nutrients, sunlight, and air flow. The vines should be planted in rows. You may leave a distance of between 3 to 6 feet between each row depending on the soil fertility, rainfall and climatic conditions. Buy your vines from nurseries that produce and sell one-year-old dormant vines with bare roots. Most vines are sold early in spring. When you receive them, keep them moist by spraying them until you are prepared to plant them and don’t keep them standing in water.
Planting the vines is a fairly simple process. Create a hole along the row you have demarcated. Place the vine in the hole and tamp down on the soil surrounding it with your hands to remove any pockets of air. Make a depression at the base of the plant to enhance the watering process. You should keep the soil moist after the vines start showing signs of growth. So if you live a climate with light rainfall, you should make arrangements to water your vines regularly.
During winter, grapes naturally lose their leaves and go dormant. But after spring, you should prune your vines. Pruning and training the vines helps to maximize the output of the grapes. Unfortunately, many new growers do not enjoy high yields because they don’t prune their vines adequately. Pruning helps you to maintain a balance between fruiting and vegetable growth. It also develops a structure that will improve the use of sunlight and enhance the productivity of your vines.
The Vertical Positioning System is the easiest and most popular system used to guide the pruning of vines in most vineyards around the world. In the first year, the vine will become quite bushy with multiple shoots emerging on the vine. You can allow them to keep growing till winter. But you should allow at least three to four shoots to remain. After the leaves fall off in winter, select one of these shoots to serve as a cane to establish the base trunk of the vine. Then remove all the remaining shoots including the lateral ones which grow from the node area. When you prune your vine, you should try to retain the right amount of leaves to support the growth and ripening of the grapes.
Pest and Disease Control
If you leave your vines unattended, they will get infested by pests and diseases. However, the occurrence of grape vine diseases vary from region to region. So you should study the local pests and diseases that are common in grape vines within your locality. With regular fumigation, you can effectively prevent the occurrence of most diseases. You need to fumigate your vine every 10 days as soon as it is up to 10 feet tall. Spray it with appropriate fungicides to prevent infestation of fungi such as powdery mildew, downy mildew, and black rot. Additionally, insecticides should be used to eliminate insects that feed on leaves, buds, and fruit. Insect infestation on fruits must be prevented because the rot it causes on one fruit can spread to the entire cluster of grapes.
Best Time to Harvest
There are various ways to know when grapes are ready to pick. The first method is to taste them. When grapes have a sweet taste with a pleasant flavor they are ready for harvest. Another method is to observe the color. Green varieties like Thompson Seedless and Romulus will turn yellowish or whitish while red and black varieties will have a deeper color. When birds start coming to the vines frequently, it is a good sign of ripeness. Unfortunately, once grapes have been picked, they will not ripen further, so you need to wait until the fruit is fully mature. Choose a dry day to harvest your grapes because wet grapes will spoil quickly. You should examine each cluster carefully immediately after harvest. Take away any diseased, overripe or withered grapes because they will quickly infest the entire bunch.
Grape growing can be a very rewarding and profitable venture. However, you should be prepared to wait for a few years and pay close attention to the maintenance of your vineyard so that it can deliver the optimum amount of grapes for eating or for wine production.
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