Vineyard Update: Summer 2016

If you asked me to summarize what starting a small vineyard on my property this year has been like I’d say roughly 50% digging holes and 50% crossing my fingers and hoping everything doesn’t die.  (So much of life on a farm– when you don’t have any farming experience–is crossing your fingers and hoping everything doesn’t die.)

I’ve been thinking about grapes for a while…


I don’t know why I kept thinking about them…


OH. Maybe it was the wine. (Also, that bottle in the last pic was a birthday present from one of my friends and has a guinea hen on the label. So basically perfect.)

But even I was a little surprised that I just up and decided to buy 18 grapevines one day this spring. And next thing you know? My life is just a series of digging one hole after the next.


That’s dramatic, but seriously… even with an auger on my tractor it’s a pain in the ass.

Still, 18 holes for the vines and 20 holes for the posts later, I had a partial trellis and what looked like some poor, dead twigs planted in the ground…


Then I pruned them back to just 2-3 buds, which seems crazy… they’re only a couple of inches out of the ground at that point. But pretty quickly they sprouted leaves.


And then started growing real quick


I think that was the 4 week picture.

I used some growing tubes around them which protect from rabbits and groundhogs, and also filter the light and heat that gets to the vine like a mini-greenhouse.


They worked great, but as soon as the vines started poking out of the top of those 18″ tubes the deer started snacking on them.



More fencing.



More watering.


I swear I spent more early-summer nights after 10 PM out on my tractor swatting mosquitoes and making sure my grapes got a drink. Who knew wine was so much work?

Still, things were going swimmingly until about two weeks ago, when I went out to check the vines and…


I noticed a collection of beetles on several of the vines and– when I checked down the tubes– more than one had ALL of the leaves eaten.

So guess what else got sprayed when I was taking care of the fruit trees?


Yeah, you randomly buy a farm one day intending to fix up the house and the next thing you know you’re out in a field wearing overalls, muck boots, a big hat, and a bandanna over your face while you spray some grapevines because life.

Other than the beetles all but one of the 18 vines seemed to be doing well, with no visible disease. But, because I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been about watching for (and eradicating) beetles, there are probably 3-5 more vines that are on “death watch”… I’m really not sure how they’re going to make it in the shape they’re in, but plants will surprise you sometimes.

Without fail though, my Concords are doing great (which means lots of grape juice and grape jelly in my very, very distant future.) And I also have a few other vines that are well over 48” tall, which means sooner rather than later I need to get out there and set the last of the trellis posts and string the wire.

I’ll replace any vines that don’t make it through the winter next spring, then I’m going to wait a year to see which grapes do the best out here before planting a third row in another year or two.

I can’t wait to be eating grapes straight from the vine though.


9 Responses

  1. Just a tip : French wine growers often plant a rose at the end of the rows of grape wine, if the rose gets infected with something it usually happens just before the pest will enter the wines. Usually the grapes the first couple of years are not worth making into wine but you could get a small production going from year 5 (the roots have to get far enough into the ground to get the micro nutrients up into the grapes, that will make it delicious). So before you know it you can be self sufficient in alcohol (mead, cider & wine ?) Go for it !

  2. Grapes is something that I have always wanted to add. We are hoping to build a small orchard and will make sure to add grapes when we do.

    I can’t believe they grow that fast! Your 4 week picture was amazing!

  3. That is fantastic. I have small vineyard also, but this was not good year for it. At beginning of summer it all looked nice, lot of nice grapes, but now almost everything is rotten. I brought two experts when I noticed first changes, and booth of them told me my vineyard is too old, and that it can’t give more nice grapes. It has 20yrs. You think like you know what are you doing, what is your opinion.

    1. Don’t believe all you hear:

      “With proper care, grapevines can live for 50 to 100 years or more. Some of California’s oldest vineyards contain grapevines dating back to the 1880s. These vines replaced earlier plants that were wiped out by the phylloxera virus. It’s possible those earlier vines might still be productive if they weren’t destroyed by disease. In your garden, your grapevines may well outlive you.”

  4. You had me for a minute. I though you had dug all of those holes by hand, with those post-hole digger. I was like no way! Glad you had the auger to help you out. Looks like the hard work is paying off the, the grapes at the end look very nice. Great pics. Thanks for sharing.

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