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Planting tips and Growing Vines
First decide what method of cultivation you plan to adopt. Alan Rowe covers most of the common methods - but not all documented methods. Then decide on the direction and spacing of the rows and the distance between plants. There has been considerable discussion about north/south versus east/west planting and north/south is said to give the best ripening. But there are two other important factors to consider:
- the shape of the plot to be planted - rows may lend themselves more naturally to one direction or other and
- the prevailing wind.
Having the wind blow between the rows is said to produce more rapid drying and that this is a major factor in disease prevention - high humidity being ideal for many diseases. If the choice is between less ripe and disease free or more ripe and infected, most people would oft for the former. The prevailing wind on my site is from the west and I grow east/west rows - I cannot comment on whether the grapes are less ripe or more diseased because I do not have any north/south rows with which to compare - however, it works!
Probably the most significant factor affecting ripeness on a small site is birds! Once the grapes are approaching ripe the birds will move in and can strip a small vineyard almost overnight. If you see this happening you have little choice but to harvest the grapes (whatever their ripeness) or loose them. Netting is the only real solution on a small site, and this is comparatively expensive - more expensive than the vines themselves! On the other hand if you plan to have only a few vines the netting is not a major investment and it is not too onerous a job to cover the vines just before the harvest and remove them when ready to pick.
Having decided a layout - including provision for nets - simply dig a hole and pop the vines in and spread the roots. If your ground is light and liable to dry out plant deep (200mm or eight inches at least); if it is the opposite plant shallow (but not less than 50 mm or two inches) and even consider raising the ground by 150mm (six inches) or so if that is possible and plant in this. Grab hold of the roots at the base of the vine and cut off what ever sticks out of your hand so that the roots remaining on the plant are uniform and each about 100 to 150mm (four to six inches) long. If you have wires in place fix the vine to the wire at the required planting depth; if you intend to use a cane to support the young plant put it in the hole first then arrange the plant roots around it. A little mound in the bottom of the hole can help spread the roots. Do not add fertiliser to the planting hole. The aim is to encourage the roots to go and look for water and nutrients not to laze around where the living is easy. Finally, back fill the hole and firm in as you go.
Early spring is the time to plant. Growth normally starts in late April or early May and the plant should be comfortably settled before this. A warm spell in late February or early March is probably best. But not if the ground is frozen. Your vines will be posted as near as possible to the date you specify but again are best not lifted from frozen ground.