Site Selection and Development
Site Selection Checklist
- Air drainage - Will cold air drain away from the vineyard site? (Avoid "frost pockets")
- Water drainage - Does water drain readily through the soil profile? (Conduct infiltration test). Extremely important - grapes cannot stand "wet feet"!
- Soil characteristics - Grapes adapt to a wide range of soil types.
- Conduct a soil test - Is the pH too high or too low? (A range of 5.5 to 7.0 is generally considered best, but most of the cultivars that we grow will tolerate somewhat lower or higher levels.)
- Soil depth - Grapes need several feet of rooting zone, with no impeding layer (hard pan, plow pan, etc). Ripping may be required.
- Fertility - It is not necessary that soils be highly fertile; too much fertility, especially nitrogen, may cause vines to be excessively vegetative. Desirable soil test amounts: (actual pounds per acre, phosphorous - 40 to 50, boron - 1.5 to 2.0 and zinc - 8 to 10) and exchangeable pounds per acre, potassium - 250 to 300 and magnesium - 200 to 250.
- Organic matter - 1 to 3% is desirable. Very high organic matter levels can exacerbate the problems noted above regarding excess nitrogen.
- Slope - Conventional wisdom says that southern exposure is best; however, promotion of early bud-break may result, leading to damage from late frosts. Northern exposure will delay bud break, but may delay ripening of fruit. Eastern-facing vineyards will dry most quickly in the morning. North-south row orientation is strongly recommended.
- Exposure to prevailing (usually westerly) winds - When excessive, winds can be damaging, but wind can also help dry the foliage after a rain or dew, thus helping minimize disease incidence.
- Length of growing season - Depending upon cultivar, a frost-free period of 165 days or more is desirable.
Vineyard Development Checklist
- Determine market outlook and winery demand, and select appropriate varieties (One year in advance)
- Determine physical and chemical suitability of soil (back hoe, soil test.)
- Check Irrigation water availability and quality. (One year in advance).
- Check for diseases and nutritional imbalances of existing crops.
- Control perennial weeds: bindweed.
- Clear site and level the land if needed.
- Rip the soil when it is dry (August-September)
- Disc, plow, smooth soil in preparation for planting.
- Survey the vineyard site.
- Make scale drawing of the proposed new vineyard.
- Order #1 certified virus free dormant rooted cuttings from nursery. (9 months before planting)
- Install irrigation system.
- Install deer/elk fencing if needed.
- Layout and plant vineyard in the spring after the frost hazard has past and the soil has warmed.