If you are just beginning to learn how to grow grape vines, there are some things you may not be expecting to find out. One of these “unexpected” discoveries is just how important soil quality can be. If you want to know the single biggest tip for how to grow grape vines, it’s simply to optimise your soil. Depending on how mineral rich your soil is, this will dictate how healthy your plants are overall. Further, it also drives the quality of the grape crop too.
Overall, when you learn how to grow grape vines, you’ll likely learn how they are hardy plants that are known to be over comers. But the difference between mediocre and magnificent will likely come down to soil. Grapes do real well in a rich soil that has a great deal of organic matter. Ironically, they do not need a super high degree of soil nutrients, which can have the added effect of starving underlying weeds. But organic matter is very important. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to build up the soil that way.
The organic quality of the soil is important enough that some folks even recommend that you have the soil tested. As mentioned, the good news is that you can adjust the quality of the soil if the test shows there’s a problem. Many people learning how to grow grape vines overlook this opportunity to get off on the right foot. It’s a good idea to check the pH of the soil while you’re at it. Generally, for grapes we’re looking for somewhere between 6.0 to 6.5. This allows the grapes to take in optimal nutrients from the soil. If the soil is more alkaline, like above 7.0, this can be remedies. But the first step is to get the soil tested so you’ll know exactly what to do and will not need to engage in a guessing game.
I can not emphasize enough how simply testing and correcting the soil in advance is the easy advantage most people first learning how to grow grape vines will either not know about or else will not take advantage of. If you get the soil ready, you’ll greatly decrease the maintenance you have to do later on. Of course, there will be strategic opportunities for fertilizing. For example, when the fruit is ripening, it’s a good time to fertilizer.
It’s also advisable to fertilize after the first harvest. The growing fruit tends to put a big demand on the nutrients, so it’s ideal to give the soil a head start for the next growing season. As for the types of fertilizer, think about organic or naturally occurring products such as manure. Manure happens to be one of the best forms of nitrogen that the plants can easily take in. Again, however, grape vines do not need an over abundance of nutrition. So we don’t want to overdo it. If you do too much, the vines can start to grow too much in the way of leaves as opposed to fruit.
A final tip for those learning how to grow grape vines pertains to drainage. Grapes do not need to sit in water, and it’s not good for them. So, the point is not to over water, for sure. Drainage is very important, which is why you may be used to seeing vineyards on hillsides. As it turns out, the drainage hillsides offer also correlate well with decreased nutrient levels that are ideal. Erosion works away the top soil on slopes and this leads to vines that are more apt to create fruit rather than leaves. If you pause to consider these lessons for how to grow grape vines, you’ll accelerate your success and avoid some common pitfalls.
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Jeremy Plackard is a grape growing enthusiast and vineyard aficiona