2. Check the soil.
Grapes aren’t overly particular about the soil they grow in, but to make the most of your organic vineyard, you’ll want to check out the soil type and its pH. Grapevines prefer a neutral soil. That’s a soil with a pH of about 7. You can dig a hole in the area where you intend to plant and then take scrapings from the sides of the hole. Place them in a plastic zipper, sandwich-type bag. A home soil test kit can let you know pretty quickly what your pH level is or you can contact your agricultural extension office for recommendations on a local soil testing lab. Once you have the results, the extension office can help you with recommendations on any soil treatments you might need to bring the soil pH into alignment with what you need. You’ll also want to avoid very stone-laden or clay-type soils as grapes do not perform well in these soils. If the area has been able to produce healthy vegetation in the past, your grapevines are probably going to be fine.
3. The size of the vineyard.
The size of any organic backyard vineyard is subjective, but remember it takes quite a few grapes to make a single bottle of wine. It will take roughly 120 vines to produce enough wine to fill a 60-gallon barrel. In order to achieve this volume, you will need an area of about 50’ by 50’ that meets the sun and soil conditions described above.
4. Choosing the grape variety.
In order to make wine, you will need to choose one or two varieties of grapes that you want to grow. The most important factor to consider here is the climate where your grapes will grow. In places where the growing season is cooler with average temperatures of 50˚ – 60˚ F, Riesling grapes do well. Conversely, in hotter climates where the average temps are 85˚ – 95˚, Cabernets and Zinfandels do best. In moderate climates where temps range between 60˚ and 85˚, Merlot, Cabernet or Chardonnay is likely to thrive.
5. Install the trellis system of your choice.
A trellis is a structural support for the grapevine. The type of trellis you choose depends on the location, soil type, growth habits and the number of vines and the spacing between plants. The goal of the trellis is to provide all the vines access to the sun for the full 8 hours they need and good air flow between the vines. A fence-style trellis is most popular with backyard grape growers. It allows the vines to wrap easily around the posts and rails. The fence needs to provide ample room between rails and posts so that as the vine winds its way around them, it still has access to the sunlight and water. Pruning and harvesting are easily accomplished with this design because you can work from both sides of the trellis.