Once you have committed to a vineyard and made the initial decisions, you must determine the future size of the project. Planning early for the long term goals will help to ensure success. Solar Innovations, Inc.’s vineyard team decided to start small, but with a scalable solution for future growth (one to two rows of trellis can be added each year). With proper pruning and spans between the posts, the vines will grow and accept the new supports, assimilating the new growth areas into one continuous plant, simply with more space to produce fruit.
Now that you are ready to begin, the land must be prepared for the vines. Solar needed to complete some major land clearing, as discussed in our blog post last week: ‘Starting a Vineyard’, before addressing the soil. We recommend testing the soil to ensure the proper PH levels are achieved prior to planting. Tilling can be done, however the determination is dependent upon the type of soil and what previous plant material needed to be removed to install the vineyard. At Solar’s vineyard, the soil required amendment to achieve the appropriate PH levels.
Sunlight and breathability are the two key components that need to be considered when installing supports and can be achieved with appropriate spacing. Without support, the vines will not handle the weight of the fruit. When this occurs, the fruit will either fall to the ground or pull the vine to the ground. In either case, the fruit becomes exposed to both wildlife and the elements. This typically results in a poor fruit harvest, possibly even a total loss.
At Solar, the trellis posts were spaced approximately 12′ apart to accommodate the required soil amendments and buried 2’ deep. High tensile wire spans were created at 2′ high and 4′ high across the trellis posts with t-bars on top. The building materials were carefully selected for their durability and strength to ensure future grape and raspberry growth while providing an option that will not rot or break down in the coming years. Cedar is often used in this application for its inherent qualities, but was not required for this particular application.
The final piece in planning the project is to ensure proper hydration of your plants. An irrigation method needs to be carefully considered and managed to ensure proper growth. If a humid atmosphere is created, the buildup of mildew on the fruit can occur, ruining the production. For our project, a drip style irrigation system was implemented. We are using two 300 gallon tanks that are portable to feed the exact section we need, when we need it. These tanks are connected to 1” drip tube lines that are run along the 2′ H trellis spans and drip water at a rate of 1 gallon per hour.
Extensive research, a comprehensive plan, and tedious maintenance are the keys to a successful vineyard launch. Another update on the progress of our vineyard will be posted on our blog, so stay tuned.