Sunday, October 21, 2012

Vineyard Part Two...

Once the ground had been cleaned and contoured, my grandfather and I laid out the posts and pegged out the rows:

We then dug 3 feet down and sunk each post in, lined them up vertically with a spirit level and packed the soil around them to hold them tight:

Before the posts could be strung with the wires they had to be stayed so that they wouldn't collapse inwards with the strain or lift out of the ground. There are 2 main post staying techniques, staying them from the inside:

or tying them back and guying each post to a smaller, deeper sunken post: 

Tying them back is the more secure method, as if you stay them on the inside, the stays can act as a fulcrum if there is enough strain, and the posts can still lift out of the ground. Not wanting the visual clutter of seeing the stay poking out of the ground, we buried our stays and laid them horizontally tying the wires around their girths...

This has the added advantage that the stay is much more secure as there is a larger surface of soil holding the posts back.

Above: All the posts stayed.

Then it was time to string the wires up. We chose 3 wires, allowing us to have 3 cordons, at 1', 2' and 3' respectively. Simple stapling of the wires usually suffices. We used wind-up wire tensioners in the middle of our wires to get them nice and taut, and added a middle pole halfway along the wire to prevent sagging.

Planting and training the vines...

Above and below: The final product, 8 rows of grapes planted, mulched and tied to the wires

When planting a vine an espalier type technique is usually used to get maximum support for each vine as well as good airflow around the grapes and maximal sun exposure...

Proper training of grapevines is essential to maintain plant size, shape, and productivity. If left unattended, grapevines can become unruly, and fruiting will be poor due to overproduction of vegetation.

To start training your vine, plant it and let it grow almost unfettered in the first year. Then in its first autumn select the 6 best canes (a summer shoot that has matured and hardened off into a woody, brown cane) to train along the wires to become your cordons (a permanent extension of the trunk that is horizontally positioned along the trellis wireTrain one cane along each wire, growing away from the main trunk.

In the second autumn you count the buds on each of the spurs (the fresh canes coming off your cordon) and prune the spur back to about 3-5 fruiting nodes. These nodes will each produce one cluster of fruit. How many buds you choose depends on desired fruit load and space.

You may use different approaches for determining the number of fruiting buds. With any pruning system, at least 85 to 90 percent of the one-year-old wood will be removed during pruning. This will allow the grapevines to maintain their structure (shape), distribute the fruit load along the cordons, and enhance fruit quality. On three-year-old (or older) vines, approximately 40 to 50 buds will be kept.

Grapevines are best pruned in the middle of winter, when sap levels are at their lowest and the wood is fully hardened. During the spring remember to regularly mulch to retain moisture and decrease weed growth; and to fertilize with an all-round nitrogen based fertiliser.

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