11 Steps To Starting Your Own Organic Backyard Vineyard

Garden 30

More and more people are becoming self-sufficient and are turning to backyard gardening. Having a small-scale vineyard is a little different than growing a few clusters of table grapes though the practices are similar. Therefore, growing a vineyard in your backyard is not as daunting as it may seem. Any labor of love requires a certain amount of research and work. Gardening books, or the internet can help, however, it is important to spend some time talking to other local growers, learning what obstacles they have faced and what tricks they have learned.

We have prepared 11 tips for you that will be helpful for sure!

11 Steps To Starting Your Own Backyard Vineyard: 1. Choosing a location

The most important thing is that the entire vineyard be able to receive at least 8 hours of sunlight each day. Look for obstacles such as trees, hedges and buildings that might impede this requirement. Without the full 8 hours of sunshine, the plants won’t thrive and the grapes will be fewer and of inferior quality.

2. Check the soil

Grapes aren’t overly particular about the soil they grow in, but to make the most of your organic vineyard, you’ll want to check out the soil type and its pH. Grapevines prefer a neutral soil. That’s a soil with a pH of about 7. You’ll also want to avoid very stone-laden or clay-type soils as grapes do not perform well in these soils.

3. The size of the vineyard

It is important to have in mind that it takes a few grapes to make a single bottle of wine. 120 vines will be enough to produce a wine that will fill a 60-gallon barrel. To achieve this volume, you need an area of about 50’ by 50’ which meets the sun and soil conditions.

4. Choosing the grape variety

You will need to choose one or two varieties of grapes that you want to grow. The most important factor to consider here is the climate. In places where the growing season is cooler with average temperatures of 50˚ – 60˚ F, Riesling grapes do well. Conversely, in hotter climates where the average temps are 85˚ – 95˚, Cabernets and Zinfandels do best. In moderate climates where temps range between 60˚ and 85˚, Merlot, Cabernet or Chardonnay is likely to thrive.

5. Install the trellis system of your choice

A trellis is a structural support for the grapevine. The type of trellis you choose depends on the location, soil type, growth habits and the number of vines and the spacing between plants.  A fence-style trellis is most popular with backyard grape growers. It allows the vines to wrap easily around the posts and rails.

6. Water supply

Grapevines will need to be watered regularly. The water from your garden hose is sufficient in most cases but if you are going for true organic, you may want to have the water tested. A drip irrigation system is the most efficient and effective way of making sure your organic backyard vineyard receives the right amount of water.

7. Plant your vines

The hole for planting your new vines in is fairly universal across all types of grapes at about 8 inches deep. The spacing between plants is a little more complex. In a dry, arid region, the plants can be 4 to 6 feet apart in their rows. If the soil is fertile and the climate is hot with plenty of water, there will be more vigorous growth and you will need 6 to 8 feet between plants in the same row.

8. Training the grapevines

The grapevine needs a strong and upright trunk and a healthy root system. As it grows toward the sky, wooden stakes can be used to support the young vine. As the vine reaches the fence lines, new shoots can be gently tied to the rails or wires to encourage them to spiral around the supports. Once they are clinging, the strings or plastic ties can be removed.

9. Pruning your vines

When we talk about pruning, the first year is the most important for organic backyard vineyard. This is the time the permanent shaping is created. New plants come with 2-3 active shoots. There is a possible drawback when the plant can become bushy during the first year and not get the proper air and sunlight. Be discreet when pruning during the first growing season.

When it’s winter, the vines will lose all their leaves and go dormant. From this time on, the vines are referred to as canes.One of them will be chosen to establish the main trunk. A month before spring comes, trim the plant back so it only has 1-2 strong canes. Secure the tank cane to the training post and trim away any week or unwanted shoots.

During the dormant period of the next year, you will trim these canes back to just 2 and train them horizontally along the fruiting wire or rail. These two canes should produce 8 to 10 new shoots that should be trained to the other 3 wires or rails.

10. Pest and disease control

Pests and diseases will vary from one part of the country to another. Throughout the summer, you will want to thin and position these components so that the whole canopy has good air flow and receives the proper amount of light. This can prevent many fungal diseases that can take hold when the vines are overcrowded.

Also, check with local growers and your extension office for organic measures to use to combat the local insect populations. When it comes to birds, netting over the vines can protect your fruit.

11. Harvesting the grapes

As a new organic backyard vineyard grower, it will be a few years until you make your first harvest but those first sweet grapes will be the reward for your years of labor. Winemakers should plan to be harvesting clusters of grapes that are fully ripened and disease-free in the early morning hours during the month of August.

In order to bring the harvest in all at the same time, you may want to invite a few friends and family members to help you out. Store the harvest in a cool, shady place until you are ready to make your wine.

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