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FALL   •   WINTER   •   SPRING   •   SUMMER          New Vineyard Timeline
Grape - Fall Content


Year of Planting · Vine Planting

The field is prepared; the tile is in the ground; the irrigation is ready; and the newly arrived vines are soaking in water and waiting to be planted.

Vine Preparation

When you receive your vines, check to make sure they are in dormant and in good condition: no broken graft unions and no green tissue visible from the buds. Keep the vines in a cool, dark place - maybe under a tarp in a walk-in cold room or root cellar - and do not allow the vines to dry. The day of planting, vine roots can be soaked in water for a few hours prior to planting to ensure they do not dry out during planting. Be sure not to damage roots or graft unions while you handle the vines, and while broken or damaged roots can be removed, we do not recommend root pruning prior to planting. The vines are going to need as much of the roots as possible to spread in the trough or hole dug for them.


Again, keep vines as moist as possible (e.g., bring the tub of water containing vines to the field and refill the planter from there, or cover them with a tarp on a trailer). Nurseries ship vines with the intention that they be planted nearly immediately, so be sure to know when vines will arrive and when you will be able to plant them. Reduce the gap between vine arrival and vine planting as much as possible. 

While we do not generally recommend root pruning, it is best to ensure that vine roots will fit in the hole or trench provided for vines. With this in mind, aim to plant the largest, most-intact root system possible, which means that holes dug with shovels or trenches made with tree planters need to accommodate the plants brought in from the nursery. Vine roots should be evenly distributed and not skewed in one direction upon planting. Consequently, an auger up to 18 inches in diameter and adjustment of the tree planter may be necessary. 

The gist of planting anything is that roots go in the soil, and the rest goes above ground. When grafted vines are being planted, care must be taken to keep the graft union above the soil line, but not so far up that hilling up becomes impossible. (If planting early in the spring, before the last threat of frost, hilling up loosely to the graft union may be necessary.) Vines will need to be straightened after using a tree planter, or even an auger, so someone will likely need to be assigned the task of straightening vines and tamping down loose soil around the base of the vines.

Fertilization and Weed Control

These topics will be covered in the nutrient management and weed management sections, respectively, but it is worth a mention here that these are important immediate, post-planting steps. Without adequate fertilization and weed control, vines will struggle to thrive. In fact, lack of weed control has destroyed the planting efforts of many a viticulturalist in just the first year (Figure 1).

Weedy Vineyard

Figure 1. Vitis vinifera vineyard with poor weed control leading to >50% vine mortality due to lack of weed management.  Weeds can quickly out-compete vines, killing or stunting vine growth.

Wires and posts

The first year is good time to get at least the beginnings of a trellis system to keep vines off the ground and make weed management easier. Posts and one wire at about 30 inches can be a good starting point, especially for what will become vertical shoot positioned (VSP) vines (Figures 2 and 3). If the plan is to train to a high wire cordon system, putting the posts in during the first year will help when the wire goes up the following year. For these vines, bamboo stakes are often adequate for the first season of growth, and these can be tied to wires in either circumstance, depending on the vigor and growth of the vines. All too often, growers discover their site to be more productive than thought, leading to vines that reach the top wire in the first growing season. In these cases, it is best to get a trellis system in place in the first year.

Pinot Noir Vines

Figure 2. Pinot Noir vines allowed to grow along the ground during the first season make for difficult training and pruning in subsequent years.

Bending of Canes

Figure 3.  Close-up of vine in Figure 2. Allowing and selecting canes that require bending up toward the catch wires can make canopy management difficult.

Grow Tubes

There are two main camps when it comes to the use of grow tubes in new plantings: One insists they are necessary because they increase vine growth in the first season, and the other insists they decrease winter hardiness of the wood while increasing disease and insect pressure on the vines. A third option, of course, is to leave grow tubes on vines for about halfway through the season to allow them time to harden off before winter, but also to allow the vineyard manager to spray for weeds during most of the season. Most recommendations fall into the third category to enable weed management without damaging young vines, but also allows for some time for the vines to acclimate to the season. There are caveats to this option, though. One issue is that one must pay close attention to what goes on inside the tubes - Japanese Beetles love to hide and eat grape leave in grow tubes. A second problem is that sunburn can occur in regions or season with intense sun exposure.  Third, deer also like to eat tender wine grape leaves, and grow tubes do not necessarily protect vines from deer browsing.  Monitor vines for damage, or establish a deer repellent program before browsing can begin.

Grow Tubes

Figure 4.  Grow tubes can create greenhouse-like conditions for individual vines, which may be preferred in certain climates.  Photo courtesy: Tim Weigle


Christensen, L.P., Dokoozlian, N., Walker, M.A., Wolpert, J.A. (eds.). 2003. Wine Grape Varieties in California. University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Publication 3419.

Dami, I., Bordelon, B., Ferree, D.C., Brown, M., Ellis, M.A., Williams, R.N., and Doohan, D. 2005. Midwest Grape Production Guide. Bulletin 919, Ohio State University Extension; Columbus, Ohio.

Jackson, David. 2001. Monographs in Cool Climate Viticulture: Volume 1 Pruning and Training. Daphne Brasell Associates and Lincoln University Press. New Zealand

Wolf, T. 2008. Wine Grape Production Guide for Eastern North America. Cooperative Extension NRAES:145.

Content by:

Dr. Jodi Creasap Gee
Viticulture Extension Educator,
Lake Erie Regional Grape Program

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Upcoming Events

2018 LERGP Winter Grape Grower Conference

Event Offers DEC Credits

March 14, 2018
Fredonia, NY

We are in the planning stages of this event, but we have secured the facility and date! Put us on your calendar and come spend the day with us!
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Tim Weigle receives Excellence in IPM award

Portland, NY. August 11, 2017: As a kid, Tim Weigle often tagged along with his dad, a plant breeder at Iowa State University. It gave him a taste for agriculture and research. But once in college he took an entomology class and everything changed. That class included an introduction to integrated pest management (IPM).
“I was fascinated by the interaction of plant systems and pest complexes,” Weigle says. So he added IPM to his bachelor’s program, then topped it off with a master’s in horticulture. “It gave me the solid foundation in crop production I needed to practice IPM,” he says.
Now, for nearly 30 years of innovative, farmer-focused IPM research and outreach in the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program (LERGP), Tim Weigle has earned an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State IPM Program (NYS IPM).
Examples- Weigle helped build a dense concentration of grower-owned weather stations linked together online through NEWA" the Network for Environment and Weather Applications" to predict when to scout for destructive grape berry moths and a hit list of other pests. And he’s applied LERGP research to use tractor-mounted sensors, each with a chip providing data for creating color-coded maps. These maps pinpoint where destructive grape rootworms are probably at work underground.
“This means you can check just those spots for grape rootworm and spot-treat only them,” Weigle says.”
Then there’s Weigle’s leadership on the Organic Guide for Grapes and the Pest Management Guidelines for both grape and hops. He’s also been a trailblazer in IPM research and outreach for the hopyards that help fuel New York’s microbreweries.
But it’s his way with people that really sets Tim Weigle apart. Sure, the internet has a lot to offer. But nobody wants a faceless Extension. Weigle created weekly “coffee pot meetings,” held at vineyards all along Lake Erie’s grape belt. Indeed, they’re what “face time” is all about. They don’t even have an agenda. Instead, they’re driven by what’s got farmers curious or worried that week.
“Some of those early coffee pot meetings were at our vineyard, back when our son was just a little kid,” says Dawn Betts of Betts Farms LLC. “I remember one time we’d all gone out to the vineyard, and Tim was talking about grape berry moths. Well, our son went down the row and picked some of the stung berries where the moths had laid their eggs. And Tim said ‘if this young man can do it, you can too.’”
The Betts family goes to a lot of those meetings. “We learn from each other,” Betts says. “If one of us has an issue, chances are the others will soon.”
“Tim does a fabulous job of incorporating the fundamentals of biology while bringing the latest science to address growers’ challenges,” says Jennifer Grant, director of NYS IPM. “We’re proud to have him on our NYS IPM team.”
Weigle received his award at the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program’s Summer Conference on August 11, 2017. Learn more about IPM at

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