Plan

Action without planning limits results. Similar to most horticultural endeavors, grapes meant for winemaking benefit from various cultivation approaches. If these approaches are haphazardly followed, vines are forgiving. They’ll grow like weeds almost anywhere, becoming large and gangly. They’ll produce small bunches of inconsistent fruit. Untamed vines don’t translate to good grapes for making palatable wine. 

To achieve success, you need to emerge yourself in a range of topics: your soil type; grapes that do well in your plant hardiness zonerow and vine layoutirrigation requirements; vine trellising and trainingground cover; and disease and pests, small and large critters.

Where does one go for such guidance? Locally if you can. There is no better teacher than a local grape grower. If you have the luxury, talk to more than one grower. The value in learning from local folks is the practicality of the advice you’ll receive. Having questions ready specific to your site and desired plans will pay dividends.

The next stop on your learning journey should be your local state or county extension office. Established by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 to address and support research and agricultural issues in rural communities, extension offices are commonly managed by state universities. States with mature grape-growing industries have robust viticultural extension offices, with topic-specific catalogs covering all aspects of growing and sustaining grape vines. Your local extension office should have the information you need specific to your location.

The next stop is further research. There is one winemaking hobbyist resource standing above the rest, WineMaker Magazine. WMM has a robust viticultural component, though much of it exists behind a paywall. WMM also annually sponsors a vineyard planning and planting full-day boot camp. Becoming a member for less than $50 a year is well-spent money. Another good resource is Grapevine Magazine. Geared more towards professionals, hobbyists will also find benefits and an email subscription is free on their website. Find relevant topic blocks below from WMM and the Grapevine.

Most importantly, work through the online topic blocks below. When ready, develop a plan of action. You’ll find it helpful to lay out a schedule for the planting and first year of growth. The schedule assists in arranging for items you’ll need (including rootstock or vines!), and for family, friends, or contractor assistance. 

As General Eisenhower once quipped, “Good planning without good working is nothing”. Get to it!

Vine Planting Cones

The Life Cycle of a Wine Grape: From Planting to Harvest (Wine Cooler)

A high-level overview of the process affirming commitment requirements. Making wine is a long, slow process. It can take a full three years to get from the initial planting of a brand-new grapevine through the first harvest, and the first vintage might not be bottled for another two years after that. But when terroir and winemaking skills combine, the finished product is worth the wait.

Backyard vineyard

Planning Your Backyard Vineyard (WineMaker)

With all the excitement of harvest and crush in the air, it’s easy to forget about planting. But if you’d like to start a small, backyard vineyard next spring, there are some important things to do before winter arrives. It’ll make it easier to get your vines in the ground when the weather warms up. The most important elements in any vineyard development project are research and resources. And the most important resources are other grape growers.

Growing Zones

How to Start a Vineyard (WikiHOW)

Many people dream of turning their love of horticulture and fruit growing into a vineyard, and others simply want to start a backyard vineyard to make a few bottles of their own wine. Whether a vineyard is your hobby or a potential money-making investment, it’s essential to start off on the right track. Prepare your land, family, and pocketbook, choose the best grapes, and start growing. It may sound simple, but there’s a lot more to it than many first time grape growers know.

In the Vineyard

Starting a Backyard Vineyard (The Home Winemaking Channel)

In this eight-and-a-half-minute video, we will explain the basics of growing a vineyard in your backyard. This vineyard is in the Pittsburgh area and will produce around 500lbs of grapes once mature. The vines planted are Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Lemberger, Riesling, and Traminette. The vineyard should start producing grapes in the third year.

Planting a Vineyard

Should you Plant Your Vineyard Without North-South Rows? (Grapevine Magazine)

Row orientation is one of the first decisions a grower makes when planting a new vineyard. How much does this decision matter, and what should you consider when choosing row orientation? For generations, many have touted north-south orientation as a best practice because it exposes the canopy to the most direct sunlight. But modern research suggests that, it is more complicated than this.

How Much Wine Can a Small Vineyard Produce? (UC Davis Extension)

Many people are interested in growing grapes for homemade wine. This PDF worksheet should help you predict your production capabilities. Grape crops vary from year to year, but it’s important to estimate yield in order to plan for your required winemaking equipment.

Vineyard Trellis and Training (WineMaker)

There are several options available to a backyard grape grower when considering which trellis configuration and which training system to use. How do we focus on what’s important in a trellis and training system and avoid getting caught up in the mire? Let’s look at the basic requirements and select a trellis system that has practical trellis design and installation parameters for the backyard grape grower.

Soil Texture Triangle

Dirt Don’t Lie: The Impact of Soil on Vineyards and Wine (WineMaker)

In general, wine grapes of the Vitis vinifera family grow between the 30th and 50th parallels of latitude where the average temperatures are between 50 and 70 °F (10 and 21 °C). Grapes are grown on stony hillsides with almost no soil, the vines clinging and fighting for every inch of purchase. Grapes are grown in deep, fertile soil where they produce astounding amounts of vigor (and hopefully fruit!).

Installing vine nets

Wildlife Control in the Vineyard (Grapevine Magazine)

Depending on what region of the country your vineyard is located, you may be faced with many different animals that love to wander into your grapevines. Some of the most common wildlife species that negatively impact vineyards are deer, rodents, birds, and raccoons. Birds, in particular, are notorious for pecking through fruit and damaging it so that it cannot be used for winemaking.

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