Getting your own vineyard started can be a very exciting process. However, be sure to take care to complete the steps necessary to get you off on a successful path. One of these steps, perhaps the most important one to start with, is knowing how to grow grape vines in the right soil. The type of soil you intend to plant in, its mineral content, and the environmental factors all contribute to the overall health and productivity of your grapevines. Having your soil analyzed is extremely important. It is not difficult to add those nutrients that the soil may be lacking, but taking out the unwanted elements is nearly impossible. If the results of your soil analysis show too much nutrient deficiency, utilize the professionals available to you for advice on how to amend the soil so it is conducive to grape production. Not turning to the experts and trying instead to guess yourself what the soil needs can have devastating long-lasting effects on the quality of your vines.
Grapevines do well in rich, highly organic soils, because they really are fairly adaptable and don’t need much to feed on. This is great news to know, because if your soil is lacking unnecessary nutrients that your grapevines don’t need excessive amounts of anyway, not having to add them will help avoid providing weeds the soil they desire. When you receive the results of your soil test, have a professional help you read it and determine the best course of action. If you make incorrect adjustments to the soil balance, it could have a huge impact on your success, such as low yield, excessive foliage and vine growth to name a few problems. Study the pH level of your soil first. Depending on your region, the natural drainage, surrounding waterways and natural land formations, your soil may be either alkaline or acidic. The ideal pH level for grapevines to thrive and produce is between 6.0 and 6.5. If the reading is below 6.0, then the soil is acidic, and you should add lime to it. However, if your soil has a pH level higher than 7.0, you might want to purchase rootstock that has been adapted to limestone soil conditions. Many grape growers fail at this stage simply because they didn’t learn how to grow vines in the proper soil.
The nutrients found in the soil are just part of the total picture. Another, equally important element is drainage. Grapevines do not do well in standing water, but require good drainage. This is why so many established vineyards are on the side of hills, where water runs off sufficiently. Hillsides also tend to provide soil that is low in nutrients and organic matter from years and years of erosion. Grape vines that are grown in soil that has too many nutrients and water go “vegetative”. This means that the grape vines will return to leaf growth and will stop producing fruit. Lastly, the soil must also provide sufficient support for the plants to anchor themselves to. The trellis you will provide, but the grapevine’s root system must also be solid, and requires about thirty to forty inches of loose soil to develop a wide, strong base.
Once you have given your vineyard the soil it requires to flourish, you will only need to supplement it in the future. You many find it necessary to add fertilizer to the soil once the grapes are ripening and after the first harvest season. The nutrients within the soil will become depleted as the grapevine uses them to mature and produce fruit. The use of organic fertilizer, like manure, has risen among grape growers for many different reasons. One reason is that manure is a natural source of usable nitrogen. The type of manure you need depends upon the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium your vineyard soil requires. Additional testing on the soil may be useful, but as you gain insight into what your vineyard uses each year, you will begin to know what it needs without testing, and what you need to do to grow grape vines successfully. Taking the steps to ensure the quality of the soil in your vineyard will reward you for years to come.
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