Growing Grapes in Your Backyard
Bare-root tree planting
Grapevines are usually planted during the dormant season (January or February), when they are bare-root. Vines purchased in a retail nursery are nearly always simple-rooted cuttings – i.e., they are not grafted onto a rootstock. If the vine is a cutting, it is best to plant the vine deeply, so the roots are well below the soil surface. But if the vine is grafted (this is very rare; the label will indicate if it is), plant the vine higher, so that the roots are just below the soil surface. Be sure that future settling or even thick mulch will not result in the graft union being buried.
Dig a hole as wide and deep as the roots and spread the roots out in the hole. Begin covering the roots with the soil that was removed and tamp the soil gently as you add all the soil back. Do not add any amendments or fertilizer to the planting hole – the compost that was rototilled into the soil is adequate.
After planting the bare-root vine, it must be pruned in order to produce substantial growth to create a strong trunk. Find the original cane that was propagated, and find last season’s new canes growing from the cutting. Select one of the new canes to leave (usually the highest or strongest cane) and cut it back to only two buds. Cut off all other new canes. Cutting back to only two buds creates two strong shoots from which to choose the trunk; within a few months the strongest shoot will be chosen as the trunk and the other should be cut back to several inches long. This shoot could later be used if the selected trunk is injured or broken off.
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